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Arundel Sues Opioid Manufacturers, Distributors, ‘Over-Prescribing’ Docs

Anne Arundel County has filed legal action against opioid manufacturers, distributors and “local over-prescribing doctors,” making it the first jurisdiction in Maryland to file such an action.

Defendants in the action include manufacturers Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson, Insys Therapeutics and Janssen Pharmaceuticals. Local physicians William Tham, M.D., Kofi Shaw-Taylor, M.D., Jackie Syme, M.D., and Lawrence Vidaver, M.D., and their practices, also are named defendants in the action. Legal claims against the parties include the following.

• Public nuisance claims
• False Claims Act claims
• Maryland Consumer Protection Act claims
• Fraudulent and negligent misrepresentation claims
• Unjust enrichment claims
• Gross negligence and negligence claims

The lawsuit will be litigated by the Motley Rice law firm. The firm works on a contingency fee basis and there are no immediate costs to taxpayers. Motley Rice will get paid only if the suit recovers funds. Motley Rice will work in conjunction with the Anne Arundel County Office of Law.

Despite record investments in education, prevention and public safety, the opioid crisis in Anne Arundel County has steadily gotten worse in recent years. Within the first quarter of 2016, drug and alcohol overdose deaths increased more in the county than in any other Maryland jurisdiction. The county’s opioid prescription rate remains above the national average and nearly three times higher than in 1999.

APL to Usher in 2019 With Flyby of Kuiper Belt Object

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), in Laurel, has announced the next stop on its New Horizons exploration mission: Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69, shortly after midnight on Jan. 1, 2019.

“Nothing like MU69 has ever been explored before,” said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute, in Boulder, Colo. The object represents a chance to study a pristine building block of the solar system that first was discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2014 in a region of the solar system that was practically unknown just a generation ago.

“The Voyagers and Pioneers flew through the Kuiper Belt at a time when we didn’t know this region existed,” said Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division at Headquarters in Washington. “New Horizons is on the hunt to understand these objects, and we invite everyone to ring in the next year with the excitement of exploring the unknown.”

Hubble’s initial observations indicated that MU69 could be two objects, perhaps accompanied by a moon. New Horizons will fly about three times closer to MU69 than it did to Pluto in July 2015, allowing the spacecraft’s cameras to provide a more detailed look at the object’s surface. APL Project Scientist Hal Weaver pointed out that New Horizons’ vantage point from about 2,175 miles (3,500 kilometers) from MU69 will allow it to spot details about the size of a basketball court.

Southern Management Corp. CEO Hillman Dead at 75

David Hillman, a Baltimore-area developer and chairman and CEO of Southern Management Corp., passed away after a bout with cancer on Dec. 27. He was 75.

Hillman founded the Vienna, Va.-based firm that ranks among the biggest owner-operated property management companies in the United States in 1981; today, it manages 78 communities that encompass 25,000 apartments, 1.5 million square feet of commercial space and three hotels, including the recently completed Hotel at the University of Maryland.

Its Baltimore-area properties also include the Hotel at Arundel Preserve, as well as a number of historic downtown apartment buildings. Hillman also served on the board of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and the Business Advisory Council for the Comptroller of Maryland, and oversaw the David H. and Suzanne D. Hillman Family Foundation, and created the Hillman Entrepreneurs Program through the University of Maryland and Prince George’s Community College.

He was also the recipient in 2015 of the Baltimore Washington Corridor Chamber’s Freeman Hrabowski Visionary Leadership Award.

Sapwood Cellars Inks Deal to Open Brewery on Route 108

Sapwood Cellars, a new brewery founded by Scott Janish and Mike Tonsmeire, has signed a lease with Feldman Bergin Development and Fortified Property Group for 7,200 square feet at the Oakland Ridge Center, in Columbia — the site of what was to be known under previous tenant Josh Matthews as Bulkhead Brewing Co.

The local entrepreneurs anticipate opening the brewery and taproom in June at 8980 Route 108. The joint venture between Feldman Bergman and Fortified acquired the three-building portfolio, which is composed of 85,000 square feet of flex/office space, last fall; the new deal has brought occupancy to 85%.

Janish and Tonsmeire have been experimenting as home brewers since 2005, with Tonsmeire serving as a brewing consultant for a brewery in San Diego, while also writing a column for Brew Your Own magazine. He attributes the recent surge of new craft breweries cropping up throughout Maryland to the outgrowth of home brewing that became legalized in the late 1970s.

Sapwood Cellars initially will produce eight different taps, focusing on hoppy beers and IPAs, and intends to adjust the recipes based on the response. A June opening is planned; approximately six employees eventually will work at the brewery as it ramps up to full production.

BGE to Provide Federal Tax Reduction Benefits to Customers

BGE will file with the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) to pass approximately $82 million in annual tax savings on to customers, resulting from federal tax cost reductions. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which decreased the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, was signed into law on Dec. 22, 2017, and became effective on Jan. 1.

If approved by the PSC, the average BGE residential electric customer can expect to see an estimated $2.31 decrease on his or her monthly bill, and the average residential combined natural gas and electric customer can expect an estimated $4.27 monthly reduction, effective in February 2018.

“Reduced tax costs create an opportunity for BGE customers to benefit from further decreases in their total energy bills,” said Calvin Butler, Jr., CEO of BGE. “Even prior to the tax reductions, the long-term trends of customers using significantly less energy and the declining costs of natural gas and electricity commodities have resulted in the average BGE residential customer’s total monthly bill remaining lower than 2008 levels.”

While customer bills have decreased, BGE has continued to invest in the systems serving customers, delivering record lows in the frequency and duration of power outages, accelerated modernization of the natural gas system and more useful information through the smart grid that allows customers to use energy more efficiently.

Paragon Bioservices Announces Expansion to BWI Business District

Paragon Bioservices, a private, equity-backed biologics contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) with expertise in gene therapy and next-generation vaccines, has announced plans for a new, 150,000-square-foot process development manufacturing facility near BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport. The company expects the new facility to be up and running in 18 to 24 months.

Paragon currently provides full process and analytical development and clinical manufacturing services for a large and diverse global customer base from its 80,000-square-foot facility in the University of Maryland’s BioPark, located off of Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, in Baltimore City. The facilities, which include mammalian, microbial and virus suites, as well as automated aseptic fill-finish capabilities, also will be expanded to encompass an additional 10,000 square feet of space within the BioPark.

“The expansion of our biopharmaceutical manufacturing capabilities via our new site, including the ability for commercial manufacturing, is a key strategic initiative for Paragon,” said Pete Buzy, president and CEO. “Paragon is one of the few gene therapy manufacturers that has the expertise to develop and successfully manufacture complex biotherapeutics using commercially-scalable processes.”

Within three years, Paragon’s workforce has grown from 100 to 225 employees, becoming greater Baltimore’s fifth-largest biotechology company. Recently, Paragon was named one of the fastest growing companies in the region by the Baltimore Business Journal. The company estimates that it will hire more than 200 employees for the new facility during the next three years.

Season Eight of ‘Chesapeake Collectibles’ Premieres on MPT

Maryland Public Television’s (MPT) original series, “Chesapeake Collectibles,” returns for its eighth season starting in January. The new season, hosted by Rhea Feikin, features 13 half-hour episodes airing on a new day and time, Mondays at 7:30 p.m., on MPT-HD. Season eight premiered on Jan. 8, with episodes scheduled to air each Monday through early April.

One of MPT’s most successful flagship series, “Chesapeake Collectibles” showcases antiques from all over the world brought to MPT’s appraisal team by collectors from across Maryland and the region. Season eight episodes were shot on location at Turf Valley Resort, in Ellicott City. Special highlights of the season include the following.

• An authentic Shakespeare folio bought from a specialty bookstore in London
• A set of Tibetan wine cups saved from Mao Zedong’s takeover of China
• Memorabilia brought in by the son of a World War II pilot involved in a top-secret airbase in Africa
• A cache of diamond, ruby and gold jewelry inherited by a granddaughter who bursts into tears upon discovering how much her treasure is worth
• A Chinese wine vessel dating as far back as the ninth century
• Supreme Court items signed by justices including Chief Justice Thurgood Marshall

Each episode is rebroadcast on Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. on MPT2. For more information, visit chesapeakecollectibles.com.

VEIP Inspections Become More Convenient, Less Expensive

Changes to the Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program (VEIP) have extend edthe amount of time before owners of new vehicles are required to get an inspection, and eliminate the requirement altogether for pre-1996, light-duty vehicles (less than 8,500 pounds gross vehicle weight).

Each year, about 1.6 million vehicles go through Maryland’s VEIP program. Since 2015, the process has been made more convenient via the following changes.

1. Adding 10 24/7 self-service VEIP kiosks across the state;
2. Reducing the price at the kiosk from $14 to $10 and allowing customers who have been assessed late fees to pay them at a kiosk and still receive a reduced VEIP fee; and
3. Eliminating the VEIP test altogether for older light-duty vehicles and extending the initial VEIP test to three years. This third step to the VEIP test is expected to save Marylanders more than $2 million annually.

For more information about the VEIP program or to locate a full-service VEIP station or self-service kiosk, visit www.mva.maryland.gov/vehicles/veip.