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Virginia Bio Foundation Takes Fresh Look At Mission

Posted By Administration, Thursday, January 22, 2015
Updated: Thursday, January 22, 2015
Members and friends of Virginia Bio,

Virginia Bio Foundation is the charitable sister organization to Virginia Bio. Through the Foundation our members and our industry helps the next generation to become the researchers, clinicians, healers, developers and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

Over the last year the Foundation has taken a fresh look at its mission under the leadership of Chair Jim Powers, CEO of Hemoshear, and fellow board members Mark Herzog, VP Corporate Affairs, kaléo, Nikki Hastings, VP of Hemoshear, and myself. The Board undertook a review of the unmet needs in bioSTEM education in Virginia, and assessed what role Virginia Bio is uniquely suited to play, how to leverage our resources for the greatest impact and how to complement - not duplicate or interfere with - ongoing efforts of others. We developed close relationships with key state leaders, including Virginia’s STEM Director Megan Healey, and Eric Rhoades, Director, Office of Science and Health Education, Division of Instruction, Virginia Department of Education. We interviewed folks around the state already doing great work in this area, such as our friends at the Fralin Life Science Institute at Virginia Tech, with its successful Biotech in a Box program. The conclusion: focus programs on informing, exciting and equipping the teachers.

Last October we took a first step. Member companies mounted a statewide “BioTeach” event. Local teachers were welcomed into companies/institutions for a tour, to meet scientists putting bioscience to work every day, and to network with their regional colleagues. Hosts were: Techlab in Blacksburg, Hemoshear in Charlottesville, Division of Consolidated Labs in Richmond, LifeNetHealth in Virginia Beach, Engineered Biopharmaceuticals in Danville and Novozymes in Roanoke. Statewide more than a 100 teachers participated. They were amazed at what they saw and who they met, and eager to take it back to the students. Reviews were so uniformly positive that plans are underway to repeat and expand BioTeach night to even more sites statewide in the coming months.

A second new initiative is underway. We learned from the teachers that there are many fine web based resources for bioscience students and teachers. (To sneak a peak at one, look at Virginia Bio member Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s BioInteractive site). But we also learned that these resources are widely dispersed, it takes a teacher a lot of time and energy to find them, align them with state teaching guidelines and to integrate them into class work plans. So the Foundation, in cooperation with the Department of Education, has engaged experienced science teachers to scout, evaluate, collect and streamline a practical guide to the best online resources, and make that available as an online tool to all Virginia teachers. The tool, which links resources with Standards of Learning, will be housed on the Foundation’s website.

In other efforts, the Foundation is leading the planning for bioSTEM programming at THRIVE, our April 23 statewide conference in Northern Virginia at the Westfields Dulles Marriot. One component will bring in area high school students to meet a panel of young adults working in a variety of bioSTEM careers, and another will be putting resources in the hands of teachers. Stay tuned for details, and to learn how you can help.

All this new work is on top of the programs the Foundation built over the years. We offer a special award, now named the Mark Licata Biotechnology Award, at the State Science and Engineering Fair. Volunteers spend a half day at the finals interviewing and coaching students on their projects and making the hard choice of selecting winners. This year the finals will be at VMI in Lexington on Saturday, March 28. If you would like to spend a day you will not forget, with amped-up enthusiastic students, then volunteer to judge by emailing Susan Moore.

We also manage the Virginia BioGENEius Challenge for high school students, which feeds into the International BioGENEius Challenge put on by the Biotechnology Institute of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). Volunteers from our member universities and companies review online posters submitted by accomplished high school students from across the state, and select winners to attend the final competition at the BIO International Convention, which this year will be in Philadelphia, on June 15-18, 2015. Two young Virginians who travelled to big BIO in recent years have had remarkable success on the national stage, and all of them have had terrific career-inspiring experiences. This year there are three different categories: health, environmental and agricultural biotechnology. ATCC has been a wonderful, long time sponsor of Virginia’s BioGENEius Challenge for many years. If your company or organization would like to help sustain this inspiring competition, please contact Susan Moore.

Finally, for many years the Foundation has organized and funded our popular summer internship support program. We are currently accepting company applications for matching grants up to $1000. The application period will be open through April 30, 2015 and can be submitted at our website.

This great program, like all of the Foundation’s work, relies upon support from individual and corporate donors, as well as from Virginia Bio. Please consider helping financially to support this important work. You can donate now here.

I hope you all are as proud as I am of the commitment we’ve made over the years. We stand on the shoulders of Foundation leaders in years gone by, such as Martin Chapman, Pat Williams, David Lay and Henry Wixon, among others. I hope you’re inspired, too, by the current Board’s energy and focus in this important work on behalf of us all. Please let us know if you have questions or would like to lend a hand.

Best Regards,

Jeff Gallagher


Tags:  funding  intern  STEM  students  Thrive  Virginia bio  Virginia bio foundation  virginia bioscience 

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