Virginia’s governor says the state’s reputation for biotechnology is growing, thanks in part to the success of the Virginia Tech Carilion Biomedical Research Institute. The partnership is already growing and Tuesday it broke ground on an expansion.
"This is a great day for our city and valley," Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea told several hundred students, researchers and leaders gathered for the occasion. Leaders behind the partnership, also known as VTCRI, say it’s more than just bricks and mortar.
The first phase, started about ten years ago, led to groundbreaking brain and cardiovascular research and a medical school. Executive Director Michael Friedlander said the program has already booked $100 million in research grants, created several hundred high-paying jobs and spun off several biotechnology businesses. VTCRI is expanding to other areas like obesity, cancer and biomaterials. It's been successful,
Friedlander says, because of visionary leadership, collaboration between dedicated organizations and a welcoming community. "It also happened because pioneers including faculty, students, staff and their families, and I want to emphasize that, their families, were willing to take a risk and become part of something brand new and exciting happening right here in Roanoke."
Carilion Clinic CEO Nancy Agee says VTCRI has attracted medical professionals to the region and that has translated into better care for patients in the Roanoke Valley. "We are really becoming a place where lots of physicians, nurses, technologists want to be. They love this vibrant area," Agee said after Tuesday's ceremony. "They love what we’re doing with the medical school, what we’re doing with the research institute. They love the relationship with Virginia Tech."
Virginia Tech president Timothy Sands calls the partnership a win-win for the university, Carilion and the community. "You’ll see a lot of talent coming into Roanoke as a result of this building, a lot of new energy, a lot of new companies."
Governor Terry McAuliffe noted that projects like VTCRI, and state financial support to develop them, are growing Virginia's reputation in the biotechnology field. “It’s put Virginia on the map. We should be on the map in biotech," McAuliffe told reporters. "And when you are a leader in biotech you’re going to bring those 21st century companies.”
The research building is expected to open in 2020. Half of the $90 million price tag is being paid with state money, according to the governor.