TechNite 2024 Celebrates the Elements of Tech

The Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council’s TechNite 2024 presented by Woods Rogers Vandeventer Black, recognized all the elements that make the Roanoke-Blacksburg innovation ecosystem so dynamic. TechNite 2024 was held Wednesday, May, 8 at the iconic Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center. RBTC’s annual celebration is highly anticipated within the regional technology community, and hundreds of local and state leaders gathered to honor this year’s standouts in innovation in Virginia’s Region 2. 

This year saw an inspiring address by special guest Rishi Jaitly, a national thought leader on artificial intelligence, the return of the Hart of the Entrepreneur Impact Award presented in memory of innovator Bonz Hart, and the induction of Dr. Robert Sandel into the RBTC Hall of Fame.

“The research and technology being developed in this area astounding. It’s not overstating things to call it world-changing. TechNite is a distillation of all the elements that make our innovation ecosystem so powerful,” said Erin Burcham, President of Verge and Executive Director of RBTC.

Jaitly spoke about the electricity of the room for TechNite, the scale of regional innovation here, and finding the superpower of the future.

“Our region that can play a big role to usher in innovation and what it means to be human,” he said.

The night began with a celebration before guests enjoyed the awards ceremony. The following entrepreneurs, leaders and companies were honored. 

Virginia Western Community College president Dr. Robert Sandel was named to the RBTC Hall of Fame. Dr. Sandel is a lifelong educator who sees promise in every person. His commitment to providing an accessible and quality education has transformed VWCC, the region and the lives of countless students. A respected and able leader, Dr. Sandel has cultivated a supportive learning environment and established a vibrant team of devoted professionals empowered to innovate. Thanks to his leadership, VWCC is a nimble, cutting-edge institution poised to contribute widely to the vast and diverse needs of the community. 

The Hart of the Entrepreneur Impact Award recipient was The Tiny Cargo Co. led by Dr. Spencer Marsh. Tiny Cargo is a Roanoke-based C-corporation that harnesses the power of milk exosomes as a naturally occurring drug delivery platform, aiming to treat the lethal effects of radiation, as well as a platform technology to enable the treatment of a wide range of other diseases. Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Spencer Marsh is one of the world’s leading exosome experts. His work paves the way for Tiny Cargo to become a global leader in supplying and applying exosome-based technology to new pharmaceutical and nutraceutical products.

Additional award winners include: 

  • Dr. Heather Lindberg and Dr. Kristylea Ojeda, Virginia Western Community College | STEM-H Educator Award, which recognizes an educator in the Roanoke-Blacksburg region that promotes math, science, and/or use of technology in creative ways to transfer knowledge and help develop future technology leaders. Drs Lindberg and Ojeda are dedicated educators with a strong passion for biotechnology. Together, they are committed to going beyond the classroom to bring relevant experiences to STEM students. The cutting-edge programming is designed especially to fit the needs of real biotech companies, labs, and teams. It provides students with the information and knowledge they need to make strong career decisions following graduation. An advocate for the future of biotechnology, Lindberg and Ojeda believe in the potential of life sciences to build a better future for everyone.
  • Mark Levy, Roanoke Valley Governor’s School for Science and Technology | K-12 STEM-H Educator Award, which recognizes a K-12 educator in the Roanoke–Blacksburg region that promotes math, science, and/or use of technology in creative ways to transfer knowledge and help develop future technology leaders. Mark Levy serves as the director of the Roanoke Valley Governor’s School for Science and Technology (RVGS) where he is passionate about student engagement and success. Prior to his appointment at RVGS, Mr. Levy chaired the science department at Patrick Henry High School where he was voted PH Teacher of the Year twice, and founded the award-winning forensics team. He holds degrees from Virginia Tech and Johns Hopkins. An alum of RVGS, Mr. Levy finds serving students and the school deeply meaningful.
  • Fermi Energy Inc. | Rising Star in Technology Award, which recognizes an early-stage technology company. This award emphasizes the importance of small firms to our region’s technology economy. Fermi Energy, Inc., founded by a team of battery scientists and engineers at Virginia Tech, develops fundamentally disruptive cathode technologies to help create the U.S. supply chain of battery manufacturing. Cathode represents over 50% of the battery cost and is the central component to store and release energy. Fermi offers low-cost, sustainable cathodes for high-energy automobile batteries. Their breakthrough processing technologies and innovative materials will reduce the cathode cost by 50%, facilitate U.S.-innovated battery manufacturing and empower electric vehicles to perform faster.
  • Dr. Sarah Snider, BEAM Diagnostics | Rising Star in Biotechnology Award, which recognizes an early-stage biotechnology company. This award emphasizes the importance of small firms to our region’s technology economy. A digital health company, BEAM Diagnostics. Inc., is leading the way to destigmatize screening for substance use disorders and advance proactive patient care. As CEO and co-founder of BEAM, Dr. Sarah Snider exemplifies the perseverance and leadership required to take a revolutionary idea and turn it into a product that can improve lives and communities. She has translated her laboratory research into the exam room to develop Beacon, a digital diagnostic platform that helps facilitate patient-provider conversations without the stigma typically associated with substance use or other behavioral health conditions.
  • Dr. Read Montague, Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC | Innovator Award, which recognizes an individual, a team, or organization that has blazed new trails in the areas of research and innovation. Dr. Read Montague is the Director at the Center for Human Neuroscience Research at Fralin Biomedical Research Institute (FBRI). He is a world leader in computational psychiatry, a field he has helped develop and is now a major funding initiative of the National Institutes for Mental Health and FBRI. His lab work focuses on computational neuroscience – the connection between physical mechanisms present in real neural tissue and the computational functions that these mechanisms embody.
  • Rob Day, TECHLAB | Regional Leadership Award, which recognizes a member who succeeds in the workplace but also leads by example by contributing significantly to the RBTC community. TECHLAB® designs, develops, and manufactures enteric diagnostics that are distributed worldwide. Rob Day, Chief Operating Officer at TECHLAB, is passionate about the benefits of medical technology and tireless in his support of industry development and his professional community. He provides board leadership for VA Bio and Verge, industry leadership in the region, and is generous and committed in his mentorship of early-stage entrepreneurs.
  • Adam Donato, Card Isle | Entrepreneur of the Year Award, recognizes a leader exemplifying what it means to be a risk-taker in technology. Card Isle offers a turnkey solution to sell real paper, personalized greeting cards through any ecommerce, grocery delivery or curbside pickup site. Card Isle under Adam’s leadership is the definition of “scrappy.” As CEO of Card Isle, Adam exemplifies entrepreneurial leadership, piloting his team through pivots, digging deep during lean times, and seizing growth opportunities to establish a well-respected and long-tenured company in the regional ecosystem.
  • CytoRecovery | Leading Small Tech Company, recognizes a Roanoke or New River Valley company committed to advancing the region’s technology community and demonstrating excellence in people, programs, and projects within its industry. CytoRecovery is a dynamic startup working to commercialize new cell separation and recovery technologies and advance understanding of disease initiation, progression, and treatment.
  • Elbit Systems of America—Night Vision | Leading Large Tech Company recognizes a Roanoke or New River Valley company committed to advancing the region’s technology community and demonstrating excellence in people, programs, and projects within its industry. Elbit Systems of America is a leading provider of high-performance products, system solutions, and support services focusing on the defense, homeland security, commercial aviation, and medical instrumentation markets. With facilities throughout the United States, Elbit Systems of America is dedicated to supporting those who contribute daily to the safety and security of the United States.
  • Hal Irvin, Fralin Biomedical Institute at VTC | Ruby Award, which recognizes an outstanding member who has proven to be a brilliant and valuable asset to the Roanoke-Blacksburg region. 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.

Thanks to all the sponsors and companies that helped make the 2024 event a success: Woods Rogers Vandeventer Black Attorneys at Law, City of Roanoke, Member One, Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation, Montgomery County Economic Development, Cox Business, Roanoke County Economic Development, TechLab Inc, Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport, Botetourt County, Glo Fiber, and Arctic Wolf. RBTC, part of the Verge Alliance, exists to promote the growth of the Roanoke-Blacksburg technology community with a vision for the region to be globally recognized for its innovation, entrepreneurship, and talent assets. The Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council is a member-driven association working to promote the growth of the regional tech-based economy. The organization is the essential business resource for technology entrepreneurs and companies seeking to achieve greater success with members that range from emerging technology firms to the largest employers in the region.

Recent Posts

  • Conference Logo

    RBTC Announces Launch of National Technology Conference

    AI is a hot topic. These days it seems you can’t open your computer without encountering an opinion. From your cousin on social media to experts in Silicon Valley, everyone’s […]

  • TechNite 2024 Celebrates the Elements of Tech

    The Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council’s TechNite 2024 presented by Woods Rogers Vandeventer Black, recognized all the elements that make the Roanoke-Blacksburg innovation ecosystem so dynamic. TechNite 2024 was held Wednesday, May, […]

  • Meet the TechNite 2024 Nominees

    TechNite 2024 is just around the corner and we can’t wait to celebrate this year’s standouts in the tech community. We’re continually inspired by all elements of our innovation ecosystem, and […]