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Tech Council of Maryland Names Winners of 26th Annual Industry Awards

The Tech Council of Maryland (TCM), Maryland’s largest technology trade association for life science and technology, today announced the winners of its 26th Annual Industry Awards. More than 700 technology and business leaders from around the state attended the celebration last night, which took place at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center.

“The individuals and companies we honored at last night’s industry awards celebration represent the tremendous talent, innovation and dedication we have in Maryland’s thriving technology community,” said Phil Schiff, TCM’s CEO. “The nominees for this year’s awards were truly outstanding, and exemplify how Maryland’s technology community is playing a vital role in ensuring our state’s long-term prosperity.”

The winners of the 2014 TCM Awards are:

Advocate of the Year
Michael E. Busch, Speaker of the Maryland State House of Delegates
Serving as Speaker of the House since 2003, Busch plays a vital leadership role. He works closely with the governor and members of the state on a wide array of issues facing Maryland, including education funding, job creation, public safety and environmental policy. Busch is a consistent proponent of the business community, and is being honored for the business and economic development package that he and Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller, Jr. offered during the 2014 session. This package has a strong focus on fostering entrepreneurship, increasing economic development and seeding new cybersecurity companies, as well as modernizing Maryland’s tax climate and improving the state’s overall business climate.

STEM Educators of the Year
Dr. Agnes Taguines, science educator at the Youth Opportunity Academy
Sister Ellen Marie Hagar, president, Elizabeth Seton High School
Dr. Taguines teaches physics, biology, and chemistry courses at the Youth Opportunity Academy, an alternative school for low-income and at-risk students in Baltimore. Colleagues describe her as an organized powerhouse and, though there is no laboratory for her students to get a full scientific experience, she provides creative, resourceful and rigorous instructional strategies. Dr. Taguines is able to make cross-curricular and real life applications, which has helped students excel in courses like mathematics and technology.

Sister Ellen Marie has served as president of Elizabeth Seton High School in Bladensburg, Md., since 2009 and has worked in educational administration for 25 years. She has transformed the curriculum and the culture of the high school so that every student has the opportunity to learn and explore the STEM professions. She has developed the LEAD program—Learning Engineering and Design—which provides high quality, hands-on, innovative STEM education for the students in the classroom coupled with challenging internships and other experiential learning opportunities in the public and corporate sectors.

Executive of the Year
Ahmed Ali, President, TISTA Science and Technology Corporation
In a year marked with sequestration, shutdowns and furloughs, TISTA, under the direction of President Ahmed Ali, grew by 45 percent and showed a singular vision in support of its employees when executives donated their time and salaries so that employees were paid during the 17-day government shutdown. Last year, the Rockville, Md.-based TISTA also brought in more than $23 million in new contracts and received multiple accolades, including being named #13 on Washington Technology’s Fast 50 list of the fastest growing small businesses in the Washington, D.C., area.

Chief Financial Officer of the Year
Robert Latchford, CFO, Optoro
Optoro is an IT company based in Lanham, Md., that enables retailers and manufacturers to increase revenue from returned and excess inventory. As the CFO, Latchford was instrumental in getting two VC fundings completed for a total of $32 million, as well as closing on a $7 million debt facility, all within his first nine months on the job. He also helped close the lease that enabled the company expand to Washington, D.C. and he managed the company’s growth from more than 60 employees when he started to more than 140 today. Latchford also coordinated Optoro’s involvement with Defending the Blue Line, a charity that works to provide hockey equipment to children of military families.

Chief Information Officer/Chief Technology Officer of the Year
Mark Pietrasanta, CTO, Aquilent
Pietrasanta was the driving force behind the Laurel, Md.-based Aquilent’s move from an onsite data center to a complete Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) implementation. He also drove the development of Olympus, powered by Aquilent, a cloud management portal that lets an IT team manage a hosted environment through a real-world business view.

Life Science Firm of the Year
Amplimmune, based in Gaithersburg, Md., is focused on developing novel therapeutics through immune system modulation. With its strong product-based focus, Amplimmune has developed three biologic candidates including AMP-224, which is in Phase 1b trials in cancer in collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline; AMP-110 for autoimmune diseases in partnership with Daiichi Sankyo; and AMP-514 for cancer and infectious diseases. By leveraging its GMP manufacturing capabilities and in-depth knowledge of immunomodulatory pathways, Amplimmune is developing novel immunomodulatory molecules with broad spectrum applications in treatment of cancer, autoimmunity, transplantation and infectious diseases. Amplimmune was purchased by MedImmune in late 2013, and has retained its location and entire workforce.

Technology Firm of the Year
2U Inc.
Founded in 2008 by a team of education and technology veterans, 2U is a Landover, Md.-based company that enables leading colleges and universities to deliver their high quality education to qualified students anywhere. By 2012, 2U had eight graduate partnerships, and today has created online degree programs for 11 graduate schools. 2U’s cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform has enabled its partners to educate and engage more than 9,000 students around the world.

Government Contracting Firm of the Year
Social Solutions Global, Inc.
Social Solutions Global is the leading provider of performance management software for human services agencies. The Baltimore-based company equips more than 16,000 high-performing non-profits, public agencies, donors and evaluators with web-based data tracking and outcomes-oriented case management tools. In the past seven years, the company has been recognized as a Baltimore Sun “Top 100 Workplace,” Smart CEO magazine “Future 50” winner, Daily Record “Innovator of the Year,” Outstanding Incubator Company, Maryland Incubator of the Year and Inc. magazine’s 5000.

Emerging Firm of the Year
KoolSpan Inc.
KoolSpan develops hardware-based encryption and security applications to protect data and voice communications over network-connected devices. The core of KoolSpan’s technology is its Trust Chip, a validated technology deployed in more than 50 countries powering security offerings from S-1, the security division of Samsung, and AT&T’s voice encryption platform. Based in Bethesda, Md., KoolSpan also has earned an industry wide reputation for innovation and a solid business model. The company holds 18 patents and was named one of Federal Computer Week’s “Hot Companies to Watch.”


The Tech Council of Maryland (TCM) is the largest technology trade group serving the advanced technology and biotechnology communities of Maryland. TCM’s mission is to advocate for the interests of the technology community, further the role of technology in the Maryland economy, and nurture an environment where technology companies can collaborate, grow and succeed. For more information, visit

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