RBTC’s First Annual Women’s Leadership Retreat, “Boxlore,” Empowers and Energizes

Over the weekend, the RBTC hosted their first ever overnight leadership retreat, “Boxlore,” for women in technology. To say it was a major success is an understatement! Over 60 women attended the leadership training retreat to participate in an invigorating mix of professional, personal, and team development at the beautiful Preserve at Crooked Run. Together, women learned to dismantle beliefs that limit true potential and gathered major takeaways on how to become “unboxed” in personal and professional life. 

“This inaugural event for the RBTC’s WoTech group was an incredible experience,” said RBTC Associate Director, Taylor Spellman. “Without the support of our member companies Bank of BotetourtBotetourt CountyLumos, and event partner Innovate Lynchburg this experience would not have been possible.”

The BoxLore program featured storytellers and keynote speakers including WoTech leader Wendi Pannell of Pannell Consulting and Cathie Brown of Innovate Lynchburg

Workshops were facilitated by KickStart Specialists a leadership development and coaching firm owned by Kate Foster and Bob Riley. Kate also served as the event’s keynote speaker. After spending over 20 years advancing through the ranks in corporate America, Kate left her successful career to follow her passion and open a business with the objective of helping people along their path. Her inspiring keynote address explored her belief that life limitations are mostly in our head and if we can change our thinking, we truly can change our world.

“Attending BoxLore was a good opportunity to spend time with other women in business and technology, and to get to know my own colleagues on a more personal level,” said Amy Bayse NorthWinds Technology’s Vice President of Sales and Professional Services.

Hazel Gaines, Project Manager, Security & Risk at NorthWinds Technologies added, “Attending BoxLore was phenomenal! Learning, growing, and relaxing together in an amazing environment was so refreshing. I hope to return again and again.” 

RBTC plans to continue empowering women in tech through their ongoing series WoTech and future leadership events. RBTC Executive Director Erin Burcham commented, “WoTech looks forward to working with partners in the Roanoke and New River Valleys to continue hosting an annual professional retreat each year to further connect the region’s leaders to programming, mentoring and leadership opportunities.”

WoTech includes monthly and quarterly events such as Morning Jolt, Lunch and Learn, and Power Hour.

Congratulations to All the TechNite 2023 Awards Nominees

The energy surrounding technology and innovation in the region is electric. From small startups to mighty technology and biotechnology companies, revolutionary innovation is happening from right here in our region. The RBTC’s annual awards celebration TechNite 2023 will be a night to remember as we spotlight the region’s best companies, innovators, researchers, IT professionals and projects that continue to elevate the success of Roanoke and New River Valleys on a globalscale. 

Heavy hors d’oeuvres, libations and entertainment will kick off the evening followed by an exciting awards ceremony showcasing the entrepreneurs, professionals, founders, and companies fueling the region’s thriving ecosystem. Following true TechNite tradition, the evening will transform into an After Party further celebrating the 2023 winners.

With awards for all areas of technology and innovation, these honors are designed to help celebrate the leaders shaping our community. We’re very excited to announce the nominees for the TechNite 2023 awards!

Entrepreneur Award

Innovator Award

Leading Tech Company

Regional Leadership

Rising Star Award

STEM-H Educator Award

Winners of all categories will be announced at TechNite on Thursday, May 18, at the German Club Manor in Blacksburg. Get your tickets today!

See the TechNite 2022 award winners.

We Thank Our TechNite Event Sponsors

Woods Rogers Vandeventer Black

COgro Labs at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center Opens

COgro Labs at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center is now open.  

The addition of shared and flexible lab space at 2200 Kraft Drive in Blacksburg was announced in late 2021 as a collaboration between multiple partners to create lab space for short- or long-term use. The facility is designed to help companies and researchers work on projects that include anything from drones or battery testing to medical technologies.  

“Having lab space capacity in the region provides an opportunity for a company to further develop and test their research or product development with access to resources and equipment that might otherwise be out of reach,” said Brett Malone, President and CEO of the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center. “This space is designed for early- to mid-stage companies to help them find the resources they need for success.”  

The VTCRC – with funding from GO Virginia – led a coalition, including Montgomery County, City of Roanoke and Carilion Clinic, to support the development of a shared lab facility, which also includes a collaboration with Johnson & Johnson LLC. The collaboration will provide early-stage innovators in the region with access to their virtual residency program which includes expert mentoring, programming, and resources offered through Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS (JLABS). JLABS was established in 2012 with an aim to provide startups with access to the critical resources, expertise, networks, and collaborations needed to progress innovative healthcare solutions for patients and consumers. 

Having additional wet and dry lab space in the region is vital to supporting the innovation ecosystem and shows that the region is here to support entrepreneurial growth across sectors.  

COgro Labs includes accessible lab spaces in a turn-key facility. It includes lab benches, facility-wide equipment, specialized equipment, and access to shared space in the COgro co-working facility.  

The overall project is expected to generate 125 jobs with an average salary of $80,000 per year over five years with a $1.42 million, 140% return in employment-related revenue on the initial investment from GO Virginia funding.  

A number of regional groups worked together to make this project possible including the VTCRC team, Montgomery County, the City of Roanoke, Carilion Clinic, Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, Verge, Virginia Bio, the Virginia Tech Office of Economic Development, Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the Town of Blacksburg, the Virginia Tech Foundation, EDC, SMBW, and Facility Logix.  

# # #

Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center (VTCRC) has a mission to create a space with purpose where innovators have access to unparalleled resources, partnerships, and opportunities for growth. Born out of a need to translate Virginia Tech research to commercial potential, the VTCRC was established in Blacksburg in 1985. Since then, it has been home to over 750 premier organizations with a common goal to disrupt industries. Today, with operations across Virginia, the research park continues to be a destination for growth and a space with purpose. The VTCRC is a for-profit, wholly owned, private subsidiary of the Virginia Tech Foundation, and is, therefore, not a state entity. Learn more at www.cogrolabs.com.

VTCRC Announces First Companies Selected for JLABS Virtual Residency

Verge, RBTC and RAMP are pleased to celebrate our RAMP Alumnus’ latest accomplishments. We look forward to the 2023 health and life science cohort.

The Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center (VTCRC) announced today that three companies have been selected to join Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS (JLABS). Under a collaboration between VTCRC and Johnson & Johnson Innovation, LLC, established to support innovators in the Blacksburg-Roanoke region with the aim to accelerate emerging biotech and life science startups, the selected companies will have full access to JLABS programming, resources, and mentorship from experts across The Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies virtually.

Acomhal Research, Qentoros, and The Tiny Cargo Company will benefit from the JLABS global life science network and industry connections, along with access privileges to the JLABS @ Washington, DC site, while keeping their businesses located in the region. 

“These companies will have a much greater chance of getting their potentially life-saving innovations to patients because of the quality of global services and mentorship that JLABS brings to the table,” said Brett Malone, President and CEO of the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center. “We’re also excited to provide lab space in Blacksburg based on the companies’ needs.”

Acomhal Research is developing new proprietary drugs with the aim to treat primary cancer tumors more effectively, resulting in less recurrence and fewer metastases, thereby improving patient outcomes. Samy Lamouille is the CEO and co-founder. 

The Tiny Cargo Company has innovated a novel, non-immunogenic injury-targeting drug delivery platform consisting of bovine milk derived exosomes, including a formulation for protecting the heart after myocardial infarction. The potent injury-protective effects of this novel exosomal formulation were discovered by Dr. Robert Gourdie and Dr. Spencer Marsh, Chief Scientific Officer of Tiny Cargo.

The Tiny Cargo Company was formed and spun out of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute of Virginia Tech in 2019. Dr. Gourdie has spent his career developing and commercializing peptide therapeutics, co-founding First String Research (Now Xequel Bio), a $120M+ company in Phase III clinical trials. 

“Access to the JLABS program has been instrumental in the overall development of The Tiny Cargo Company from a hypothetical startup originating in an academic lab into a funded startup with a deep IP portfolio,” Gourdie said. “We foresee a bright future for Tiny Cargo and Milk Exosome technologies with this continued relationship.”

Qentoros is focused on creating novel therapeutics derived from Platelet-Rich Plasma that combat chronic infection and/or inflammation and promote tissue healing. The technology is based on collecting and processing platelets from horses to produce the anti-inflammatory biotherapeutic, BIO-PLY™.  It has been demonstrated to be effective across animal species, and even human tissue, creating large commercial potential. 

The company is working with the FDA to demonstrate safety and efficacy of the Investigatory New Animal Drug (INAD) through collaboration with the Virginia Tech Middleburg Agricultural Research and Extension (MARE) Center. At the conclusion of clinical trials, it hopes to be the first FDA approved platelet based veterinary treatment for joint infections and osteoarthritis in horses.

“While our product was discovered from and is currently being perfected in the equine realm, there is a promising avenue to translating the product to the human market,” said Dr. Jessica Gilbertie, Founder and CSO of Qentoros. “We ultimately intend to use BIO-PLY™ to treat osteoarthritis and joint infections in humans, especially in post-surgical infections of artificial joints.”

The VTCRC-JLABS collaboration was launched as part of a GO Virginia Region 2 project. The program is strategic in bringing specialized biotech accelerator programs to the region along with much-needed affordable lab space to serve startups. New labs in Blacksburg (COgro Labs) are opening this month and in Roanoke in late 2024. 

The regional collaboration working on building biotechnology infrastructure and programming includes the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, Montgomery County, the City of Roanoke, Carilion Clinic, Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, Verge, Virginia Bio, the Virginia Tech Office of Economic Development, Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the Town of Blacksburg, and the Virginia Tech Foundation. 

# # #

Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center (VTCRC) has a mission to create a space with purpose where innovators have access to unparalleled resources, partnerships, and opportunities for growth. Born out of a need to translate Virginia Tech research to commercial potential, the VTCRC was established in Blacksburg in 1985. Since then, it has been home to over 750 premier organizations with a common goal to disrupt industries. Today, with operations across Virginia, the research park continues to be a destination for growth and a space with purpose. The VTCRC is a for-profit, wholly owned, private subsidiary of the Virginia Tech Foundation, and is, therefore, not a state entity. Learn more at vtcrc.com. 

TechNite 2023: What to Expect

The energy surrounding technology and innovation in the region continues to thrive regionally and beyond. In true TechNite fashion, the event will continue to be a night to remember as we recognize the region’s best companies, innovators, and projects that continue to put Virginia’s Region 2 on the global map. Join us in celebrating another year in Roanoke-Blacksburg innovation at the German Club Manor on May 18.  The celebration is sponsored by Woods Rogers Vandeventer Black.

The Event

TechNite returns to Blacksburg! The most vibrant and entertaining celebration of the year for tech and biotech will be an indoor/outdoor event at the German Club Manor.  Plan to enjoy hors d-oeuvres and drinks and socializing under a tented patio and indoors beneath the stunning wooden beams of the German Club’s Alumni Hall and Gordon Ballroom beginning at 5:30 PM. Then, join friends in the Alumni Hall, where this year’s TechNite award finalists will be featured and on display ahead of the highly anticipated awards ceremony and keynote speaker. This year’s awards ceremony will be a theatre-style seated event in the ballroom followed by a celebratory after-party with music, treats, and a take-home gift. The event is sure to be a night to remember!  

The Speakers

Hal Irvin (Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at Virginia Tech Carilion) and Eddie Amos (Go Virginia Region 2)

This year, we’ll be joined by Hal Irvin as MC and keynote speaker Eddie Amos.

“Hal Irvin and Eddie Amos have both contributed tremendous leadership and vision to the Roanoke-Blacksburg innovation ecosystem. We’re looking forward to presenting them and celebrating the incredible tech and biotech community in the region!,” says RBTC Executive Director Erin Burcham.

Hal Irvin, Ph.D., serves as the Associate Vice President for Health Sciences and Technology Outreach at Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at Virginia Tech Carilion where he facilitates partnerships between companies and researchers. An active member and advocate of the Roanoke-Blacksburg innovation ecosystem, Mr. Irvin serves on the advisory board of RAMP and as a board member of the Roanoke Innovation Corridor Planning Committee and Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation Scholarship and Foundation Grants Committee. 

Eddie Amos is passionate about building great teams and leading them through complex business challenges, such as developing transformational software solutions. He served as the Chief Transformation Officer at TORC, a pioneering autonomous vehicle company based in Blacksburg, VA where he brought over 35 years of tech industry leadership experience. Mr. Amos also sits on the board of the Virginia Innovation council and is the Chairman of Go Virginia Region 2, whose mission is to bring high-tech jobs to the Roanoke and New River Valleys.

The Vibe

TechNite 2023 will be an indoor/outdoor event with a “Vineyard Chic” Garden-Party style. The venue has onsite parking for attendees. Carpooling is encouraged. Look for the RBTC Welcome Team to check in and grab your drink tickets and name badges upon arrival. Be prepared to smile for the RBTC signature step and repeat at the main entrance! Group seating is available for the awards ceremony portion.  Reserve a row of seats during the awards ceremony for a group of 10.  Group packages are limited and always sell fast – grab them before they’re gone! 

The Details

Date & Time: Thursday, May 18 @ 5:30 p.m.

Location: German Club Manor 711 Southgate Drive, Blacksburg, VA 24060

Parking: On-site, Carpooling encouraged

Tickets: SOLD OUT

We Thank Our TechNite Event Sponsors

Woods Rogers Vandeventer Black

Verge Hires Innovation Studio Director

Verge is pleased to announce the hiring of Jess Edwards as Director of Innovation Studio for the new biotechnology incubator in Roanoke. 

With robust experience in entrepreneurial ecosystem building, Edwards was previously the Principal of the Dan River Region Entrepreneur Ecosystem in Southern Virginia, where her work focused on implementing rural entrepreneurship and innovation primarily focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion with a hyper local lens. 

“We are excited to announce the launch of a new innovation studio and programming for early-stage biotech companies. With support from the Commonwealth of Virginia and the City of Roanoke, we are positioning the region to be a hub for life science companies to grow and thrive here,” said Erin Burcham, President of Verge and Executive Director of RBTC.

In her role, Edwards will be responsible for helping to create and expand acceleration programming that incorporates wrap-around services for companies to help them grow in the region. She will serve as an “ecosystem navigator” to connect local entrepreneurs to highly customized resources and help facilitate introductions to national and global networks. She’s also the regional coordinator and point of contact for the Johnson & Johnson Quick Fire Challenge, the first virtual accelerator collaboration with JLABS. 

Prior to working in Virginia, Edwards held the position of director of outreach and engagement for the Alaska Ocean Cluster Initiative, where her work focused on cultivating strategic partnerships, developing innovative programming and creating a statewide leadership summit to accelerate Alaska’s ocean (blue) economy development. Additionally, Edwards held positions to build and launch innovative coworking spaces for TRYP by Wyndham Dubai and Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Inc. 

A graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo, Edwards holds a bachelor’s degree in political science. She is a WNY BETA finalist for “Best Buffalo Community Tech Contribution of the Year,” a recipient of “Buffalo 30 Under 30” award, and a “10 Extraordinary Minds Award in Sales, Marketing & Revenue Optimization” HSMAI Middle East awardee. She has served as a panelist or guest speaker at events all over the world, including the Nigeria Social Media Summit, the Dubai Lynx – International Festival of Creativity and MaRS Toronto. 

Her work focuses on strategically implementing innovative concepts to advance entrepreneurial ecosystems. 

Learn more about the Roanoke biotechnology incubator project.

Join the STAT 23 Summer Program

Are you a teacher looking to expand your knowledge of biotechnology, not only for yourself but for your students? Then you won’t want to miss this new professional development opportunity from the Virginia Western STEM department.


Teachers are a powerful part of our region’s biotechnology ecosystem. To continue to strengthen the bridge between Virginia Western Community College and our K-12 partners, the Virginia Western STEM department is continuing our professional development STEM Academy for Teachers (STAT) series this summer. 

The on-campus program is designed to advance your knowledge of biotechnology, help you incorporate biotechnology into your STEM curriculum, and introduce your students (at any grade level) to vast biotechnology career opportunities.

During STAT 23, we will offer several biotechnology courses, mathematics courses, and an information technology course over a range of dates from June 12th to July 31st.

Thanks to tuition assistance provided by Virginia Career Works, these professional development courses are available at no cost for teachers.


Contact Heather Lindberg at hlindberg@virginiawestern.edu for more information.

From VWCC to the UK: Local researcher to present COVID Findings at the World Congress for Undergraduate Research

Two Virginia Western biotechnology courses and a 10-week internship turned into a life changing journey for one Fincastle native. 

A biology major at the University of Virginia, Skylar Gay’s journey into biotechnology started at Virginia Western Community College as a dually enrolled high school student. Under the guidance of Dr. Heather Lindberg, Skylar took part in VWCC’s SEA-PHAGES program that captured her imagination and sparked an interest in biology and biotechnology. In Dr. Lindberg’s lab, Skylar gained hands-on experience in lab research and gene sequencing.  

“Dean Amy White and Dr. Heather Lindberg are important mentors for me,” Skylar said, “Before studying at VWCC, I planned a career in musical theater. That will always be a passion for me, but my experiences have affirmed my desire to focus on epidemiology. VWCC uncovered a passion that I didn’t even know I had!”

In 2020, while searching for available opportunities during the COVID lockdowns, Skylar discovered the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program. Through NSF-REU she applied for a 10-week remote internship at the University of Georgia in the lab of Dr. Jonathan Arnold. Using the skills she learned at VWCC, Skylar researched COVID transmission rates using genetic data and statistical analysis. 

To assist with her statistical and genomic analysis, Skylar developed software in the R programing language which is used primarily for statistical computing and graphics. Her software, which she named transRate© is the first computational method to estimate transmission rates using a cladistic approach for genomic data.

Her 10-week internship turned into a 2.5-year research project when she was invited to continue her research under Dr. Arnold’s guidance. While there, Skylar traced COVID variants to a common ancestor, gleaning insights about transmission and mutation.  In reconstructing the phylogenetic tree and applying timepoints to her data, she learned which populations had high transmission rates and discovered that transmission was much higher within populations than between populations. 

Skylar is preparing to present her new technology and her research findings at the World Congress on Undergraduate Research at the University of Warwick in Birmingham, UK in April. In addition, she is the first author on a scholarly article set to be published later this year in a scientific journal in collaboration with Dr. Jonathan Arnold, Dr. Liang Liu, and Dr. Jialin Yang.

“I would not be where I am today without my experiences at Virginia Western Community College,” Skylar said. “I experiences I had there shaped my understanding of research and prepared me for later studies.” 

Skylar plans to add a second major in public health to her biology degree and hopes to continue her research at a Ph.D. program where she is interested in combining bioinformatics with wet lab techniques.  Her goal is to influence policy makers in creating legislation that protects public health in the event of another epidemic or pandemic by modeling the transmission of viruses within and between populations.