Verge Fuels Innovation Growth Thanks to EDA Grant and Regional Partnerships

Funding helped scale RAMP, which supported 30 startups through an in-residence acceleration program, between October 2020 and September 2023.

Leveraging a $982,443 Build to Scale grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), Verge has significantly impacted the regional innovation ecosystem and helped provide critical support to more than 100 startup companies in the region over the past three years, thanks to the support of Regional Accelerator and Mentoring Program (RAMP).

Verge received the EDA’s Build to Scale grant in October 2020 as part of a $2.08 million, three-year project, which concluded Sept. 30, 2023. Verge used the grant to scale up the Regional Accelerator and Mentoring Program (RAMP) as well as establish new Verge resources and programming for the region.

During the grant period of October 2020-September 2023, RAMP supported the acceleration of 30 startups through seven cohorts of its accelerator-in-residence program. The program provides resources and mentoring for startups in technology and health and life sciences across the GO Virginia Region 2 footprint, including the New River Valley, Roanoke Valley, Alleghany Highlands, and Greater Lynchburg regions.

“These programs provide vital resources and mentoring for technology- and health-based entrepreneurs when they need it most. Verge is proud to be successful with these ongoing efforts to grow the innovation ecosystem and our local economy,” said Verge President Erin Burcham.

Participating companies collectively launched 35 products, created 97 jobs, earned 22 Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer grants, and raised a total $28.2 million in capital through grants, loans, and private investment. 

“The grant funding allowed RAMP to offer a second accelerator cohort the past three years, expanding our mentorship efforts to support the health and life sciences startups that make up an exciting and emerging industry cluster in our region. We are grateful to Verge and the EDA for their support of this important program,” said Sarah Spotswood, managing director for RAMP.

Tiny Cargo Company, which participated in the spring 2021 cohort, notes that the experience in RAMP enabled initial business development activities, and provided the skills needed to appropriately assess the market, develop their product, construct a pitch, and execute with groups ranging from other accelerators, such as JLABS and Blue Knight, to investors.

“Tiny Cargo just successfully closed our first major investment round,” said Spencer Marsh, chief scientific officer for the Tiny Cargo Company. “RAMP was invaluable to Tiny Cargo by providing the tools and honing the skills required during our early-stage growth period that have set the stage for all our success in the last 2 years, as well as that yet to come.”

CytoRecovery learned a lot about their business structure during RAMP, noting that and customer interviews helped them develop and shift sales models; they also got the opportunity to connect with valuable networks that have led to tangible outcomes such as access to capital, grant writing support, and customer leads.

“RAMP is a great place to be involved as a growing business,” said Alex Hyler, PhD, VP and CSO of CytoRecovery. “They have a gravity in the region to connect entrepreneurs to valuable mentors, collaborative environments, and countless networks that may support your business, hiring, technical, or other needs.”

In addition to scaling the accelerator-in-residence program, three key areas were also expanded through the EDA project, including increasing pathways for early-stage startups, enhancing support for later-stage startups and Verge’s ongoing efforts with resource development and research to grow the innovation ecosystem. 

For early-stage startups:

  • Project partners Fralin Biomedical Research Institute and Virginia Tech’s LINK + LICENSE + LAUNCH offered a wide range of activities, informational sessions, and initiatives to support technology commercialization research efforts and regional entrepreneurship. 
  • The Fralin Commercialization Fellows Program  graduated 12 fellows over the course of the 3-year project, who developed their research commercialization ideas and plans and received RAMP curriculum and training. 
  • Virginia Tech’s LINK + LICENSE + LAUNCH steadfastly hosted Startup Labs and Tech Transfer Bootcamps to further support research commercialization and contribute to startup pathways in the region. 

For later-stage startups:

  • Six PitchPlus Clinics offered 55 companies information about capital fundraising and prepared them for early-stage investment opportunities. 
  • A seven-part Founders & Funders virtual workshop series focused on access to capital served 138 participants during the pandemic.  
  • RAMP supported 25 startups with post-acceleration support and programming. Thanks to Skyline Capital Strategies, 38 companies total received individual capital consulting support, and the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation led three Small Business Innovation Research workshops at RAMP. 

Finally, with the support of two GO Virginia grants and EDA Build to Scale grant funds, Verge continued to develop resources supporting the innovation ecosystem like the annual Game Changer Events and building coalitions to advance regional priorities and address gaps in the ecosystem. 

The success and completion of this project was made possible thanks to matching resources, contributors, and partners that include GO Virginia, Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation, Skyline Capital Strategies, Virginia Tech, Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, City of Roanoke, Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation, Woods Rogers Vandeventer Black, Virginia BIO, the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, and the Verge Alliance, among other program sponsors. 

As part of the Verge regional data tracking effort, we were pleased to release annual review reports, as well as data dashboards on the innovation and entrepreneurship landscape of Region 2 of Virginia, with the latest report available here.

A one-page fact sheet on the impact the EDA Build to Scale Grant has made on the regional innovation ecosystem is available for download here.

Celebrating Women Entrepreneurs and Innovators

Every day, women entrepreneurs and the businesses they lead have a lasting impact on their communities, including those served by the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council. On Nov. 19, we’ll join the nation in celebrating Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, a global celebration dedicated to honoring and empowering women in business. 

RBTC is proud to be supporting a wide range of local startups — including women-founded companies — through RAMP, the Regional Accelerator and Mentoring Program. 

These women-founded startups are among the companies in western and central Virginia that RAMP has impacted, and they are making innovative marks in a variety of industries:


Lennox McNeary, CEO and Founder

2021 RAMP cohort

Using blockchain technology, ArchiveCore provides healthcare employers “digital fingerprints of authenticity” that instantly verify the certifications held by medical professionals so new hires can start work faster.

Axon Acuity

Tammy Kemp, CEO and Founder

2022 RAMP cohort

Axon Acuity uses artificial intelligence and analytic software to help clinicians match high-risk patients with the right nurse, the right location, and the right resources in near real-time. This ultimately improves patient care and increases operational efficiency.

BEAM Diagnostics, Inc.

Sarah Snider, CEO and Founder

2018 RAMP cohort

BEAM Diagnostics is a digital healthcare company focused on data-driven behavioral health assessments to improve patient care. The first of many planning applications, BEACON is a mobile tablet application that generates a quantitative measure of a patient’s alcohol misuse to a clinician in under four minutes.

Cairina, Inc.

Jenny Munson, Co-Founder

Spring 2023 RAMP cohort

Cairina offers technologies that noninvasively measure biologic fluid flow through clinically standard imaging protocols for personalized medicine applications with the goal of predicting where cancerous tumors will grow and spread.

CodeOne Training Solutions

Allison Shok, Chief Strategy Officer and Co-Founder

Spring 2023 RAMP cohort

An American Heart Association training center, Code One Training Solutions uses technology to teach people to save lives through its BEACON CPR course as well as First Aid, EMT, and EMS continuing education classes, AED sales, and safety consulting.


Alex Hyler, Vice President and Chief Science Officer

2022 RAMP cohort

CytoRecovery is working to allow researchers to separate different kinds of cancer cells found in tumors, helping clinicians with disease understanding, therapy selections, and drug development.

Good Foods Group, LLC

Deborah Good, CEO

Fall 2023 RAMP cohort

Eating up to 6 grams of conjugated linoleic acid per day can help to maintain weight, build muscle, and lose fat. Good Foods Group plans to manufacture bars, shakes, chews, and coffee pods not currently available in the U.S. market that have 6 grams of CLA.


Tara Newberry, Founder

Fall 2023 RAMP Cohort

LymphaVibe provides wearable devices that support the at-home care of patients with lymphedema. Motors in these devices provide customized vibrations that replicate manual lymphatic drainage massages, allowing clinicians to prescribe personalized treatments to patients.

MicroHarmonics Corporation

Diane Kees, COO

2019 RAMP cohort

MicroHarmonics specializes in high-quality millimeter wave products that can be used for a variety of services on mobile and wireless networks. These include millimeter wave isolators operating from 25-400 gigahertz, millimeter wave circulators, and millimeter wave voltage variable attenuators, some of the most technologically advanced millimeter wave products available. 


Jessica Gilbertie, President, Chief Scientific Officer and Founder

2022 RAMP cohort

Qentoros is developing a biologic therapeutic to treat a variety of infectious or inflammatory conditions in animals and humans. The treatment is derived from horse blood platelets to treat chronic infection and encourage tissue healing.

RAMP is an affiliate of Verge, a strategic collaborative that includes the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council. During the 12-week cohort program, startups receive $20,000 in non-equity funding, expert 1:1 mentoring, free office space with high-speed internet in downtown Roanoke’s Gill Building and more. 

Meet all the entrepreneurs in the Fall 2023 RAMP Cohort and learn more about their enterprises during Demo Day and Tech the Hall on Dec. 6 from 5 to 8:30 p.m. at the University Club of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. RSVP now.

Johnson & Johnson Innovation Names Awardees in the Advancing Oncology InnoVAtion QuickFire Challenge

From left to right: Erin Burcham, Verge & RBTC; Mary Trigiani, Virginia Tech Foundation; Don Halliwill, Carilion Clinic; Jeff Liter, Luminary Therapeutics (Awardee); Bob Cowell, City of Roanoke; Arvin Gouw, Bacchus Therapeutics (Awardee); Mohammad Ali Amini, QurCan Therapeutics Inc.(Awardee); Sally Allain, Johnson & Johnson Innovation

Johnson & Johnson Innovation, in collaboration with Carilion Clinic Innovation, Verge Alliance (with support from City of Roanoke), and Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center (VTCRC), announced October 25 at the Harnessing the Potential of Antibody Drug Conjugates (ADC) in Oncology event at JLABS @ Washington D.C. that Bacchus Therapeutics, Luminary Therapeutics, and QurCan Therapeutics Inc., have been selected as the awardees in the Advancing Oncology InnoVAtion QuickFire Challenge.

The challenge invited innovators from across the globe with an active interest in the Virginia innovation ecosystem to submit potential solutions aiming to transform patient outcomes in oncology in adult populations with potential applications in pediatric oncology. The awardees hope to nurture Virginia’s outstanding innovation ecosystem and spearhead innovative solutions to enhance the quality of life for cancer patients across the globe.

Bacchus Therapeutics is a biotech company that exploits cancer’s hypermetabolic state by targeting specific cancer metabolic pathways.

Luminary Therapeutics is a clinical stage CAR-T therapy company utilizing a unique allogenic manufacturing platform.

QurCan Therapeutics Inc. is a biotechnology company that has developed the next generation nanoparticle for safer and tissue-selective drug delivery to extra-hepatic sites, including the brain and spleen. This technology unlocks the full potential of genetic medicine, delivering life-changing therapeutics.

The awardees will receive grant funding from a total pool of $300,000, VTRC residency for one year which includes one bench & workstation, access to the global Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS network, and mentorship from experts across The Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies. *

*Subject to terms and conditions of applicable Quickfire Challenge and execution of all relevant and necessary award agreements

Game Changer Week Features Events for Students, Startups, and Tech Community

The greatest minds, innovators, and thought leaders in the regional technology ecosystem are coming together for Game Changer Week in September.

The series of events – Sept. 5-8 in Roanoke and Blacksburg – celebrates innovation and is designed as a place where big ideas and technology can collide. The event will feature a series of community-sourced talks in areas such as biotechnology, clean energy, artificial intelligence and cyber security, and autonomous technology, plus tracks for Women In Technology, startups, and wellness.

“Our vision is to provide an annual, week-long opportunity for the region to highlight and celebrate the progress toward our technologies solving world industry challenges,” said Brett Malone, President and CEO of the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center. “Our goal is to provide connection, stoke curiosity, and celebrate all the disruptors that are right here in our region.”

New this year is a pitch competition designed exclusively for higher education students who aspire to create a significant impact through innovative ideas. The competition encourages and celebrates entrepreneurial thinking, providing students a unique opportunity to gain exposure, receive valuable feedback, and possibly secure funding for their ventures. 

There’s something for every other career stage as well. The event is designed to help connect generations of game changers including panels and guest speakers that have founded well-known companies; access to capital programs for entrepreneurs in various growth phases; and all the people contributing to make our region competitive in the world-wide tech ecosystem. 

The community-owned event is now in its third year, and Game Changer Week events are free to attend, although registration is required. 

Day-by-day highlights include:


  • Access to Capital Series for Tech Entrepreneurs. Gain unprecedented access to elite advice from people who know. The online virtual video series will cover different types pf funding options for startups and include advice from some of the region’s top-notch investors and fund managers. (Virtual, 11 a.m.)
  • Matters of the Mindset: Learn how your mindset impacts success. We’ll explore the different mindsets business owners and leader may experience, then we’ll learn how to embrace a game changer mindset that will propel you and your company forward. (COgro in Blacksburg, 3 p.m.)
  • COgro Labs Ribbon Cutting with Montgomery County Chamber: Come see the new labs for yourself. COgro LABS provides affordable wet and dry lab space in the region that is vital to supporting the innovation ecosystem and shows that the region is here to support entrepreneurial growth across sectors. (COgro Labs, Blacksburg, 4 p.m.)


  • Coworking Day at Starr Hill: Need a place to work, connect, or destress? Join in on the fun having a private co-working day at a Starr Hill Brewery. Enjoy free Wi-Fi, coffee, snacks, and lunch while you spend the day working in Roanoke. Beer available for purchase. (Starr Hill, Roanoke, beginning at 9 a.m.)
  • Innovative Problem Identification and Problem-Solving Session: Have you ever heard the saying that if you had 60 minutes to solve a problem you should spend 59 of them identifying what the problem is? Do you sometimes waste time in problem solving mode to realize that the true problem wasn’t what you were solving? This session will focus on actionable tools and proven techniques to identify core problems and solution focused decision-making. Join entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, aspiring problem solvers and students for an interactive session sure to brighten your day! (Starr Hill, Roanoke, 10:30 a.m.)
  • What’s the BIG deal about BIO? featuring Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS and Virginia Bio: Fans of the monthly Beer & Biotech series won’t want to miss this! Our global partner, Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS @ Washington, DC, will team up with local partners. (Twisted Track Brewing in Roanoke, 5 p.m.)
  • Entrepalooza: Entrepreneurship Festival: Join students from all disciplines, alumni and community members for a celebration of the entrepreneurship ecosystem. There will be plenty of food, swag, networking, and a rapid fire pitch contest with prizes. (Apex Center in Blacksburg, 5 p.m.)


  • Exploring the Future of Clean Energy Across the New River and Roanoke Valleys: Join the Dominion Energy Innovation Center’s SPARK NRV event during Game Changer Week for an insightful industry panel discussion that delves into the pivotal role of clean energy in transforming the landscape of the New River and Roanoke Valleys. This session will spotlight the deployment of cutting-edge energy systems such as hydrogen, carbon capture and nuclear technologies, aimed at spearheading decarbonization across vital regional sectors. (COgro, Blacksburg, 9 a.m.)
  • Founders & Funders Lunch + Pitch Plus Clinic Powered by RAMP: The PitchPlus Clinic is designed for later-stage, post-acceleration startups and other early-stage companies seeking knowledge about the venture capital markets, the venture capital fundraising process and the transaction closing process from term sheets through due diligence to closing. Attendees will have the opportunity to hear from Greg Feldmann, Skyline Capital; Alex Euler, Virginia Venture Partners; and Fourd Kemper, Woods Rogers Vandeventer Black. (Concept Room, Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, Blacksburg, noon)
  • Block Party: The biggest networking event since TechNite, don’t miss your chance to mix and mingle with the innovative companies and entrepreneurs at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center. (Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, 4 p.m.)


  • Final Student Pitches: Student teams will present their ideas to a panel of judges as they compete for more than $16,000 in prizes. (Lyric Theatre in Blacksburg, 9 a.m.)

“What’s special about Game Changer Week is the opportunity to learn about technologies that are being developed right here, and engage with the people who are creating them,” said Erin Burcham, President of Verge and Executive Director of the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve been doing this your whole life or are a student looking to make an impact, the future of innovation in this region is here.”

Game Changer Week events will be at multiple locations throughout the region. We encourage you to register, download the app, and plan to move back and forth between Roanoke and Blacksburg for different experiences. Even better, share the event with your team, and encourage their participation as well.

Game Changer Week is free to attend and designed for everyone from college students to CEOs and everyone in-between. Join us for networking events, engage with thought leaders in action, and leave with real-world connections and new knowledge to be inspired.

Game Changer Week is a collaborative effort organized by technology leaders from across Virginia, including the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council, VIPC, Tech Center Research Park, Virginia Bio, Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, Dominion Energy Innovation Center, and other organizations.

Register for Game Changer Week:

Connect and Grow: Game Changer Week 2023

Are you looking for a way to connect with other innovators, find inspiration, and set the tone for the upcoming year? Don’t miss Game Changer Week 2023! This incredible event is packed with opportunities to hone your leadership skills, network with local tech’s best and brightest, and soak in exciting new ideas. 

Now in its third year, Game Changer Week is growing! The action happens September 5-8, so mark your calendars. Best of all, all the events are free—just register to let us know you’ll be there. 

“The breakthroughs happening here have global impact and we want to do everything we can to elevate and connect our innovators with potential collaborators and opportunities,” said Erin Burcham, president of Verge and RBTC Executive Director. “With so many brilliant disruptors in the same place, you’ll come away from Game Changer Week having gained new insights to propel you toward your next big idea.” 

Key to this year’s Game Changer Week is a focus on top industry areas for the Roanoke-Blacksburg region: biotech, clean energy, AI-cyber technology, and autonomous technology. We have big plans to celebrate the world-changing work happening right in our backyard including:

  • “What’s the BIG deal about BIO?” featuring Johnson & Johnson and Virginia Bio: Fans of the monthly Beer & Biotech series won’t want to miss this! Our global partner, Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS, will team up with local partners to present “What’s the BIG deal about BIO?” 
  • Capital Series for Tech Entrepreneurs. Gain unprecedented access to elite advice from people who know. This keynote will feature a mix of local investors and VT Alum and includes a discussion from a startup founder that raised $200 million in Series A funding. 
  • Block Party in Blacksburg: The biggest networking event since TechNite, don’t miss your chance to mix and mingle with the innovative companies and entrepreneurs at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center. 

There are so many things that make this week special, but we like to think that our commitment to an open, inclusive environment really sets us apart. No matter where you are in your educational or professional journey, we have something for everyone:

  • 5 Topic Tracks to suit your needs and interests
  • Educational opportunities
  • Site tours
  • Open houses
  • Fun, welcoming networking events
  • And more!

“We created Game Changer Week as a vehicle to connect generations of game changers with one another and foster opportunities for collaboration that will spark even more innovation,” said Brett Malone, President and CEO of Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center.

Game Changer Week celebrates our innovative ecosystem where our tech community is working to solve world industry challenges through work with a global impact. Each of our events is led by our very own tech community. Attend our panels and talks given by recognized founders with decades of experience, learn more about the path to capital funding, or pitch your groundbreaking idea at our pitch competition! In other words, whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned founder, you’ll find inspiration and solutions to move your ideas forward. 

The events take place Sept. 5-8 in Roanoke and Blacksburg and are free to attend. Register, download the app, and create an agenda of can’t-miss talks, open houses, and networking events!

Game Changer Week Features New Student Pitch Competition

Congratulations to all the winners of this year’s competition!

Clean Energy:

  • 1st place: Engage Energy, $8000 sponsored by Dominion Energy Innovation
    • Team Members: Jack Quinn, Kayla Mathis, Marie Pittman, Anika Coleman
  • 2nd place: Brick Box, $3000 sponsored by Dominion Energy Innovation
    • Team Member: Marshall Thompson

Health Innovation

  • Feel Free Body Braces, $2000 sponsored by Deloitte
    • Team Members: Jackson Childers, Sawyer Anderson, Lauren Bickham, Gabriel Townsend, Morgan Weidling

General Innovation

  • Exit Sign Solutions, $2000 sponsored by S2 Foundation
    • Team Members: Will Field, Conner Donnelly, Angel Hernandez

Technology Innovation

  • 1st place: SCRIB’D, $2000 sponsored by Boeing
    • Team Members: Emma Stern, Caleb Townsend
  • 2nd place: GlideGuard, $1000 sponsored by TORC
    • Team Members: Vincent Nottoli, Carolina Rossin, William Black, Nathan Martin

People’s Choice

  • NestMate, $1000 sponsored by VT Pamplin Department of Management
    • Team Members: Savannah Payne, Zane Witek, Michael Desta, Shravan Athikinas

For the first time, the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center and Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council are hosting a regional Student Pitch Competition for Game Changer Week, September 5-8.

The Game Changer Student Pitch Competition is designed exclusively for higher education students who aspire to create a significant impact through their innovative ideas. The competition encourages and celebrates entrepreneurial thinking, providing students a unique opportunity to gain exposure, receive valuable feedback, and possibly secure funding for their ventures. 

Regional partners, including the Pamplin College of Business’s Department of Management, private donors and leaders in the regional entrepreneurship ecosystem, as well as international sponsors such as Boeing and S2 Foundation, are investing in this amazing event to support student-led entrepreneurial ventures. The investment is funding the most competitive and elaborate student pitch competition to ever be held in the New River Valley. 

The pitch competition has four specific categories that students can engage in and receive prize money:

  • Clean Energy
  • Health Technology
  • Technology and Innovation
  • Transportation

The community and students’ peers can also be involved with judging by voting on their favorite student team for a People’s Choice Award. 

The pitch competition will host a Kickoff Event at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 5 in the Creativity and Innovation District on Virginia Tech’s Campus with special guest speaker, Rishi Jaitly, an entrepreneur and former Google, Twitter executive and now Professor of Practice for the Virginia Tech Center for Humanities and the Executive Director of Virginia Tech’s Leadership in Technology ( initiative.

Professional mentors from regional organizations will be available to meet with student teams throughout the week to provide coaching and guidance to help students further their ideas and prepare them for presenting their pitches to our notable judges. Teams chosen as finalists, along with those vying for the People’s Choice Award, will present their pitches throughout the day on Friday, September 8, at the Lyric Theater in downtown Blacksburg. The public is invited to attend to the pitch competition finals from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

“Entrepreneurship is a beacon of hope for this up-and-coming generation of students in dealing with the world’s most complex and difficult problems,” said Laura Townsend, Director of Innovative Partnerships at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center. “It allows for the fluid application of knowledge through creativity in approaching complex and dynamic issues facing our world. Providing space for these young thinkers, creators, and innovators to collaborate and develop solutions ignites the passion for action, gives students confidence in their ideas and abilities, and opens up new possibilities for the future for our region, state, nation, and world.”

The competition is part of Game Changer Week, a celebration of the innovation ecosystem in the Roanoke-Blacksburg region. The series of events, now in its third year, features speakers, workshops, and networking opportunities for students to CEOs, and everyone in between. Events are free and happen in both Roanoke and Blacksburg. 

See the full Game Changer Week schedule here.

MOVA Technologies opens Research and Development Facility

August 1, 2023 (Pulaski, Va.) – MOVA Technologies, Inc., is pleased to announce the opening of its Research and Development Facility in Pulaski that will allow for the enhanced design and production of its state-of-the-art air pollutant capture technology.

“The facility will accelerate the pace of introducing new panel bed filtration technology innovations, while simultaneously increasing the commercial success rate of new applications in a market worth tens of billions of dollars,” said Steve Critchfield, President and Founder of MOVA.

MOVA Technologies is a ClimateTech company specializing in air-capture technology applying sustainable, circular principles to selectively capture and harvest contaminants as valuable byproducts that can be sold and reused. Selective air-capture technology has distinct cost advantages over legacy capture technologies, giving them broad market applicability with air purification applications across manufacturing, agriculture, and energy as well as carbon capture.

“The town is excited to be home to MOVA’s facility and headquarters as they advance future climate smart technologies that will be critical over the long term,” said Darlene Burcham, Pulaski Town Manager.

MOVA is a private company that has raised nearly $1.8 million in private investment and received more than $650,000 in grant funding, including grants from the federal government, GO Virginia, and the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation.

In June, MOVA completed the RAMP (Regional Accelerator and Mentoring Program) cohort, a 12-week program that provides startup technology companies with expert mentoring, free office space, access to venture capital, and membership in the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council (RBTC).

Mova also partnered with RBTC in hosting four interns this summer through the Experiential Learning in Tech Employment (ELITE) grant program. Funded by GO Virginia, the ELITE program works to develop a connection between regionally educated talent and the region’s employers. The interns gained valuable experience while contributing to Mova’s innovations in climate technology.

“We are honored to have helped MOVA accelerate its vision and are thrilled for our region to see MOVA take this exciting step,” said Erin Burcham, president of Verge, the parent organization of RAMP and RBTC.

MOVA believes that while consumers want new and better products, they also want to buy from companies that have low (or no) environmental impact. These competing consumer demands have created an interesting balancing act for business leaders who are required to innovate, grow, and maintain low costs while also being great stewards for our environment. Additionally, global climate awareness is leading to new air emissions standards for industry to curb and eliminate greenhouse gas emissions.

“This research facility is crucial to MOVA Technologies as it continues to develop its unique method of capturing particles and gasses (such as pollutants) using a fixed bed of solid sorbents,” said Ann Norris, PHD Materials Engineering Science at Virginia Tech.

MOVA is helping businesses meet these challenges. By rethinking air pollution control, MOVA is removing the high cost of pollutant capture and helping businesses meet consumer demands with advanced air emissions filtration technology that is dramatically more affordable to install and operate than competing technologies.

Advancing Oncology InnoVAtion QuickFire Challenge Open to Roanoke-Blacksburg Companies

The DC QuickFire Challenge previously helped The Tiny Cargo Company accelerate their business and connected them with national mentors and resources. Current challenge is open to oncology innovators and includes grant funding, a one-year VTCRC residency with a lab bench, and access to the global Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS network. 

Do you have an idea that could transform patient outcomes in oncology? Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS, in collaboration with Carilion Clinic Innovation, Verge Alliance (with support from City of Roanoke), and Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center recently launched the Advancing Oncology InnoVAtion QuickFire Challenge; applications are open now until August 11.

The innovator(s) with the best potential solution can receive grant funding from a total pool of $300,000, Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center residency for one year, which includes one lab bench and workstation, access to the global Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS (JLABS) network, and mentorship from experts across The Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies (Johnson & Johnson).

This QuickFire Challenge hopes to build on the promise of previous challenge awardees who have also originated from the Roanoke region. In 2021, The Tiny Cargo Company was awarded the Washington, DC Health Innovation QuickFire Challenge, receiving grant funding and one year of residency at JLABS @ Washington, DC. Founded by Dr. Rob Gourdie and currently led by Dr. Spencer Marsh, The Tiny Cargo Company developed a novel drug delivery system based on non-immunogenic bovine milk-derived exosomes for protected oral or IV based delivery of potent therapeutics.

About Tiny Cargo: Tackling Acute Radiation Syndrome

The Tiny Cargo Company seeks to solve a dire and unmet need – a systemic treatment for exposure to high-dose ionizing radiation resulting in Acute Radiation Syndrome. There is currently no treatment for exposure to high doses (>6 Gy) of ionizing radiation that can occur as a result of radio-nuclear attack or accident. 

Tiny Cargo’s orally administered therapeutic, XoLacta, consists of milk exosomes loaded with a potent radioprotective peptide. Their technology makes oral administration possible as the exosomes Tiny Cargo has developed are capable of bypassing the gut-blood barrier in moments, and also of bypassing other critical barriers such as the blood-brain barrier. 

Their technology has achieved proof-of-concept for in vivo efficacy; they are continuing to validate the effectiveness of their therapy in ongoing studies. They’re currently developing large-scale production systems and methods for storage at ambient temperatures to increase the usability and availability of their groundbreaking XoLacta product. 

Perhaps most exciting, Tiny Cargo is seeking to adapt their exosomal technology to deliver therapies for a wide range of diseases including ischemic heart disease, gastrointestinal radiation disease, glioblastoma multiforme and neurological pathologies. 

From Local to National: Tiny Cargo’s Startup Journey

The Tiny Cargo Company began its startup journey in earnest in 2020, when Dr. Spencer Marsh (Chief Scientific Officer) joined the company and applied for incubation in RAMP. During this time, the company expanded operations to build out the business plan, marketing plan, corporate structure, and identify its optimal use case. The Tiny Cargo team was mentored by world-class experts in business development including Mike Abbott and Lisa Garcia, NSF ICORPS trained mentors. 

After graduating from RAMP, Tiny Cargo was selected as an awardee of the Washington, DC Health Innovation QuickFire Challenge, earning $50,000 in grant funding, one year of residency at JLABS @ Washington, DC, and expert mentorship. 

The team honed their investment pitches and identified appropriate experts to bring on board as consultants and advisors, had the opportunity to pitch to experts from the FDA and other government organizations, enabling advanced networking and outreach, and successfully received a National Science Foundation award.

“Without support from RAMP and incubation within JLABS, we assuredly would not have been successful in being awarded our first SBIR grant. Only one year later, we are now on pace to be awarded a $2M Phase II SBIR grant in the next 6 months; a true testament to the value of the local ecosystem,” Marsh said. 

Addressing Challenges: How RAMP and JLABS Impacted the Tiny Cargo Trajectory

As a scientist, the list of challenges in creating a startup can be long but with the right support, it’s not insurmountable. The research and technology are a critical first steps, but only one portion of creating a business.

“With no background in business development, market research, customer discovery, or even basic knowledge of how to build a business, we had a lot to learn- the only background we had was in developing and conducting world-class research,” Marsh said.  

With the support of the local RAMP incubator and subsequently the JLABS @ Washington, DC and BLUE KNIGHTÔprograms, Tiny Cargo was able to find its footing and establish itself as a major player on the international level. The team surrounded themselves with experts from the business world and found it invaluable to their growth. It facilitated their growth, helped mitigate challenges and allowed for quick solutions to major issues.  

“The support from other business leaders, RAMP mentors, and the JLABS team through the QuickFire Challenge has been a critical element of The Tiny Cargo Company’s growth. Their example shows that the Roanoke-Blacksburg region has the people and network to support biotech and tech startups, thanks to mentors who have been there,” said Verge President, Erin Burcham.

Joining the Innovation Ecosystem: How to Get Involved

“As I tell every entrepreneur in the region, the best thing you can possibly do for yourself as you’re starting out is to join RAMP. The RAMP program is the perfect resource for any biotechnology company. 

“From there, I would highly recommend joining the Johnson & Johnson Innovation  JLABS  program; Sally Allain, Head of JLABS @ Washington, DC is an invaluable resource, along with the expert mentors provided through Johnson & Johnson,” Marsh said.

The QuickFire Challenge is open to innovators from around the globe aiming to transform patient outcomes in oncology in adult populations with potential applications in pediatric oncology. 

“Roanoke is fast becoming a hub for biotechnology and life sciences,” said Marc Nelson, Director of Economic Development for the City of Roanoke. “The strong partnerships we’ve fostered globally will present invaluable opportunities to businesses from across a range of sectors for years to come. The City of Roanoke is proud of our investment in such an innovative and exciting partnership.”

“These types of efforts are exciting opportunities for our clinician scientists at Carilion. Collaborations with strong local partners and notable international ones will support the growth of the biotechnology sector in Roanoke and Blacksburg, ultimately improving access to high-quality care in our region,” said Don Halliwill, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for Carilion. “In the near future, Carilion will expand oncology care through a new, world-class Cancer Center, and this challenge serves to improve both the physical health and the economic health of our community.” 

The deadline to apply for the Advancing Oncology InnoVAtion QuickFire Challenge is August 11, 2023. Find more information about the program along and apply online on the Johnson & Johnson website

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.  

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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 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. 

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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