The GO Virginia Coalition approved a grant award to the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center (VTCRC) to fund the expansion of laboratory space and facilities aimed at supporting the region’s growing life science industry on Dec. 15, 2021. In addition to the construction of shared lab space by the VTCRC, this project will support the creation of 125 new biotech jobs over the next five years.
“Through collaborations, we aim to fill the demand from biotechnology companies and provide full access needed to support research to commercialization aspirations,” said Brett Malone, President & CEO of the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center. “Our sophisticated infrastructure makes us a research destination across industries and for everyone from startups to enterprise companies.”
The VTCRC with funding from GO Virginia will lead a coalition, including Montgomery County, City of Roanoke, and Carilion Clinic, to support the development of a shared lab facility in Blacksburg and site design for a larger facility in Roanoke.
Verge, RAMP, and RBTC are partners on the project.
In addition, a new collaboration established between Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center and Johnson & Johnson LLC, 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.
The collaboration aims to meet the needs of emerging startups and existing biotech companies in the region. In the first year of the collaboration, JLABS and the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center will select up to five companies for participation in the JLABS virtual residency program. The application period will open early 2022. This program includes access privileges to the JLABS @ Washington, DC, led by JLABS Regional Head Sally Allain.*
The collaboration is aimed to meet the needs of emerging startups and existing biotech companies in the region. In the first year of the collaboration, the goal is to select five companies by JLABS and the VTCRC for participation. Applications will become available in early 2022.
The project builds on a previous GO Virginia project that identified the need for lab space and access to industry experts and mentoring in life sciences with an overall mission to create a deeper network of life science-specific investment capital.
The addition of lab space to the region highlights the work and attention the New River and Roanoke valleys are giving to this rapidly expanding biotechnology cluster.
“With recent projects and expansions, including the official opening of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC Addition earlier this year, the region is poised to become synonymous with biotechnology,” said Marc Nelson, City of Roanoke Economic Development Director. “The connections between regional universities as well as public and private innovation will propel this growth.”
“The Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC is excited about this opportunity as it provides an essential next step in the maturation of the emerging research and innovation enterprise at the Health Sciences and Technology campus in Roanoke,” said Michael Friedlander, executive director of the research institute and Virginia Tech’s vice president for health sciences and technology. “The spinoff of a half dozen companies from the institute already, its partnerships with major medical technology companies, and a current research grants and contracts portfolio of over $140 million provide a robust foundation for utilizing the planned incubator. We already have a strong connection through our Virginia Tech cancer research program located in the same building with JLABS at the Children’s National Research & Innovation campus in Washington D.C. This program provides a wonderful opportunity to build on that relationship.”
“Montgomery County is pleased to provide support to this collaboration, which demonstrates our commitment to biotechnology growth in the New River and Roanoke Valleys,” said Craig Meadows, County Administrator for Montgomery County. “We look forward to working with the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center and the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute to promote recognition for our region as a biotechnology hub.”
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.