Members and friends of Virginia Bio,
A sage cautioned “don’t confuse familiarity with understanding.”
Many of us are familiar with the research and commercialization parks and accelerators which are available for biotech commercialization around the state. But don’t blink, and don’t stop asking questions, because the facilities we know are evolving, and new resources are developing across the state to meet the great opportunity bioscience commercialization presents for the Commonwealth.
Let’s start with an update on the Prince William County Science Accelerator at Innovation Park. This space, opened in June 2014, offers leading life science and biotechnology companies 9 wet labs to grow their business at an intersection of university research and commercialization. This accelerator is the only public-private, commercially available wet laboratory space in Northern Virginia, located less than an hour away from key government buildings such as the National Institute of Health and the FDA.
Already, the accelerator is moving fast. ISOThrive LLC, a leader in nutritional ingredients that benefit the gut microbiome, expanded into larger lab space within the accelerator this past April. Since then, it has partnered with George Mason University’s MicroBiome Analysis Center to push along their research into the commercialization process. In addition to ISOThrive, two other companies, Ceres Nanosciences and Virongy, make use of the county’s accelerator. Ceres endeavors to seize the future of diagnostics by researching and commercializing novel sample processing techniques. Virongy, a virological reagent and tool company, provides cutting-edge services that catalyze scientific discoveries, enhance disease treatments, and more.
In Richmond, the Virginia Biotechnology Research Park, to strengthen its role in leading bioscience commercial innovation, has transitioned the Virginia Biotechnology Research Park Corporation Board to The Innovation Council. With an emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship, the Council, a 501-c(3) entity with 19 members, will seek to leverage individuals and organizations doing groundbreaking work in order to ensure commercial success and benefit the state economy at large. The Council boasts leaders in business, education, and other fields as part of their membership, and also received a helping hand from Dr. Rao, President of Virginia Commonwealth University in the form of a $1.2 million dollar commitment to be matched with other sources of funding.
In Danville, the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research recently completed a strategic reevaluation, and a focus on translational research and support of entrepreneurs and commercialization rose to the top. Its top notch research facilities, leaseholds and common facilities are a great home for the right bio business. IALR’s mix of labs, office and meeting facilities was a perfect spot to host the highly successful statewide Governor’s Forum on Agriculture and Industrial Bio earlier this month.
In Virginia Beach, an impressive year long, community wide economic development planning process, led by the city’s Mayor and top corporate leaders, has recommended an emphasis on biomedical industry development, and designated a 150+ acre tract adjacent to LifeNet Health and Sentara Princess Anne to set aside as biomedical research and commercialization park. Early steps in the plan call for the development thereof a bioscience accelerator.
Back to Northern Virginia, the plans for Inova’s Center for Personalized Health on the massive campus formerly the home to ExxonMobil continue to take shape. The public announcements and interviews are exciting, and it’s clear that an integral element of the campus will be facilities and services to house and support biomedical and biotech startups.
Another new, and very different, player on the scene is the new LiftOff Health, in Arlington, that is accelerating commercial expansion and networking by functioning as a digital platform of collaboration/incubation, with dreams of serving and attracting any entrepreneur around the world. This approach appears at first glance to fit companies in mobile health and e-health - involved in the “creative destruction of medicine”, as Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute, puts the impact of wireless and Internet on medicine and research. Awarables, for example, is a company using LiftOff Health which provides men and women who suffer from chronic sleep disorders an app that tracks details about their sleep patterns.
Check out other parks and accelerators you may be familiar with across the state, and equip yourself with up to date information: Virginia Tech’s impressive Corporate Research Center “CRC” in Blacksburg, UVA Research Park in Charlottesville, Innovation Research Park at ODU, and Innovation Village @ Rockingham by SRI Shenandoah Valley among others. In fact, click here to view our VA Life Sciences Map.
On the top row of the map window, choose the Snapshots button, then select Research Park or Accelerator Organization Types to view all together.
We are picking up the pace and getting smarter about creating on the “Virginia Common” the physical and expert resources needed by researchers and entrepreneurs to succeed in commercializing bioscience innovations. The accelerators, incubators and parks are diversifying and providing more value, helping to propel the biotechnology industry into the future, which is looking bright. That means more jobs, more cures and more health for the commonwealth.