Regional Partners Collaborate to Create Biotechnology Incubator in Roanoke
Multiple public and private organizations are coming together to develop 40,000 square feet of lab space and business incubation programming in the innovation corridor.
ROANOKE, Va. (February 14, 2023) — The City of Roanoke, in partnership with Carilion Clinic, Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, Verge, Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, and Virginia Western Community College, today announce a collaboration to build a biotechnology incubator in Roanoke.
The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development approved the release of $15.7 million in funds awarded to the City of Roanoke to create 40,000 square feet of shared lab space. The project is a collaboration like no other for this region with partners that will build, manage, and develop programming in a building in the Roanoke Innovation Corridor.
“Roanoke is building a strong case for companies to look at this region and say, ‘This is a place where I want to be,’” said Marc Nelson, City of Roanoke Director of Economic Development. “We are excited that so many partners were able to come together to make this project a reality in a relatively short period of time.”
“We are thankful that state, local governments, and private partners share the same vision to build the next step in our trajectory,” said Brett Malone, president & CEO of the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center. “Heavy investments between multiple partners have led to a tipping point for biotech in this region. This is a model that can scale across the Commonwealth to support the growth of Virginia’s biotech industry.”
The collaborative effort looks like this:
The City of Roanoke will facilitate and manage the project and funds awarded through the state budget and contribute an additional $1.9 million match through American Rescue Plan Act funds.
Labs will be constructed in a building currently owned by Carilion Clinic at 1030 S. Jefferson Street in Roanoke. Carilion Clinic Innovation, joined by physicians and care teams with novel ideas to advance healthcare, will use the space to further their concepts.
The Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center will manage the facility’s planning, development and operations.
Verge will launch an innovation studio and new programming to support our region’s early-stage biotech and digital health start-ups. Under the Verge alliance, the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council will launch new talent programs to attract and retain technology and biotech talent, and RAMP will work closely with the start-ups for acceleration.
Virginia Western Community College will expand its degree and certificate programs to cultivate and support the workforce needs of the growing biotechnology sector. VWCC also will provide professional development to K12 partners to enhance biotechnology education.
Virginia Tech will continue to contribute to the growth of the biotechnology cluster with innovative faculty research and startup companies emerging from the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC and as an educator of physician thought leaders with biomedical research emphasis at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.
The collaborative effort brings together cross-jurisdictional, public and private partners to propel growth in the rapidly expanding biotechnology cluster.
“The shared lab space will attract existing and start-up businesses in the life sciences, biotechnology and healthcare sectors,” said Carilion President and CEO Nancy Howell Agee. “But the space is one small step. Most importantly, the building will be an innovative gathering place for our region’s greatest minds to collaborate with those who have promising new ideas about exciting and challenging projects.”
“This will be a magnet to attract biotechnology companies including those that spin out from the research institute,” said Michael Friedlander, Virginia Tech vice president for health sciences and technology and executive director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC. “These companies want to interact with R1 research universities such as Virginia Tech and health systems such as Carilion Clinic. Wet lab space is in short supply in Virginia, so this will also address an important requirement of biotech companies in the Commonwealth and well beyond our region.”
“The forward thinking that’s happening here to link education at all levels to start-ups and business commercialization with the infrastructure to do it is pretty outstanding,” said Amy White, Dean of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics at Virginia Western Community College. “This project is a model of how to ensure that we are growing a comprehensive plan for talent and business development that keeps people and jobs in this region.”
An innovation studio and expanded acceleration programming will be designed to incorporate wrap-around services for companies to help them grow with more agility within the space of this facility. Verge, RAMP and the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council will create and host these programs. More than a building, this space will be designed as a connector for the biotech community with multiple resources in one place and a location central to Carilion, Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, and Virginia Western Community College.
The incubator is the next step to provide a home for companies commercializing research throughout the region.
“This space is a way to help incubate local research talent and start-ups as well as attract life sciences professionals and companies from outside the region,” said Erin Burcham, president of Verge and executive director of RBTC. “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.”
The project builds on a GO Virginia-funded project that identified the need for lab space, access to industry experts and mentoring in the biotechnology sector. Additional GO Virginia funds funded the construction of a pilot labs facility in Blacksburg. The mission is to create a deeper network of life science-specific investment capital.
“We started with a life sciences feasibility study that led into an infrastructure project to meet demand from biotechnology companies and support the commercialization of our region’s research,” Malone said. “This facility, as well as the labs in Blacksburg, provide the necessary capacity and access to collaborations with companies such as Johnson & Johnson Innovation for researchers here.”
The project is expected to generate 250 jobs in the first five years after opening. Construction is slated to start in 2023, with the labs expected to open in late 2024.
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City of Roanoke Economic Development Office acts as a liaison to forge partnerships between business and government and foster stable economic growth in the jurisdiction while providing continuous improvements to the quality of life for its citizens. Implementing innovative workforce and business retention, expansion and recruitment practices while promoting strategic asset developments city-wide ensures our community and economy remain diverse and vibrant.
Carilion Clinic is a not-for-profit healthcare organization serving more than one million people in Virginia’s Blue Ridge and Southwest Virginia regions. Headquartered in Roanoke, Carilion’s comprehensive hospital network, primary and specialty physician practices, and other complementary services deliver high-quality, patient-centered care close to home. Carilion’s enduring commitment to the health of our communities has advanced over the last decade but remains grounded in providing care to patients regardless of their ability to pay. Beginning with the transformation to the clinic model of a physician-led, integrated healthcare system, Carilion has developed robust academic partnerships with the creation of the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, and Radford University Carilion’s school for allied health sciences. Carilion advances care through education and research elements and continues to rely on the generous support of donors to advance its mission to improve the health of the communities we serve. Learn more at CarilionClinic.org, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.
Virginia Tech is dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), and pushes the boundaries of knowledge by taking a hands-on, transdisciplinary approach to preparing scholars to be leaders and problem-solvers. Since its founding as a land-grant college in 1872, Virginia Tech has grown to an enrollment of more than 35,000 and is the state’s leading research institution, conducting more than $590 million in research annually. In Roanoke, the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC and the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine are a part of the VTC Health Sciences and Technology campus. In Northern Virginia, the university is developing a 1 million-square-foot Innovation Campus that will become a global center of talent production and technology excellence. The main campus is in Blacksburg, Virginia, while the university’s international presence is anchored by the Steger Center for International Scholarship in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland.
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.
Verge is a strategic coalition of organizations that lead and drive public and private collaboration on innovative projects in the Roanoke-Blacksburg region of Virginia that expand to the state level and beyond. The Verge alliance, including the Regional Accelerator & Mentoring Program (RAMP) and Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council (RBTC), provides programming, coaching, talent attraction/development, and connectivity to elevate the greater technology and biotechnology sectors in Region 2. Learn more at rbtc.tech, ramprb.com, and vergeva.org.
Virginia Western Community College is a forward-thinking community college inspiring individual, community and economic transformation. It provides quality educational opportunities that empower students for success and strengthen communities. The College provides credit academic programs and non-credit workforce training along with distance learning online and dual enrollment courses in area high schools. To learn more, visit www.virginiawestern.edu.