New collaboration with Johnson & Johnson Innovation announced with the aim to accelerate life science sector growth in the New River and Roanoke Valleys by providing access to expert mentors, programming, and commercialization resources for startup companies
The GO Virginia Coalition today 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. 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.
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 VTCRC 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.*
Bringing the deep science and technology expertise from experts across the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies (Johnson & Johnson), can help strengthen the region’s biotechnology talent pipeline and propel startups from regional accelerators, such as RAMP.
“Additional wet and dry lab space in our region is a real boost for life sciences and biotech innovation, especially as it relates to improving healthcare delivery,” said Don Halliwill, executive vice president and chief financial officer for Carilion Clinic, who also helps lead the work of Carilion Innovation, the organization’s internal incubator. “One of the hallmarks of our regional innovation ecosystem is the commitment of a diverse set of partners, as reflected in our successes with the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC and Radford University Carilion. If you want to create, invent or discover, you have that opportunity in our region. This project is the latest resource demonstrating that our community can and will support you.”
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.
VTCRC’s program – COgro LABS – is designed with 25 accessible lab spaces in a turn-key facility. The facility will help meet a need for flexible lab space from small- to early-stage companies, making starting and building a biotech company a little bit easier.
The project builds on a previous GO Virginia project that identified the need for lab space and access to industry experts and mentoring in the biotech space 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, the region is poised to become synonymous with biotechnology,” said Marc Nelson, City of Roanoke Economic Development Director. “We are thrilled to partner in this project and 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 partnership, 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.”
“Accessible lab space is a distinct need within our region in order to attract, retain, and expand life sciences companies and partnerships. I am proud of the regional collaboration that led to today’s announcement, and I am excited for the opportunities it presents for our growing biotech community,” said Del. Terry Austin.
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.
*Sally Allain is an employee of Johnson & Johnson Innovation LLC.