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Healing our heroes – getting down to work

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dear Members and Friends,


Just a few feet in front of me, a highly articulated gleaming metal hand and wrist was mounted on a busy workbench, and moving fluidly through a series of strikingly natural gestures. My eyes were drawn to two thin wire leads issuing from it, snaking across the bench and affixed by skin patches to the forearm of a young man, and then i realized - as he moved his hand of flesh and bone, the prosthetic hand on the bench moved as one.

I was midway through a tour of several of the many research labs at McGuire Veterans Administration Medical Center in Richmond, one of the top tier of the many hundreds of Veterans Health Administration facilities nationwide. The tour was graciously arranged by the Director of McGuire VAMC, John Brandecker.

In a flash, I understood in a way that I had not before the depth and breadth of research at McGuire VAMC, and by McGuire researchers at nearby Virginia Commonwealth University where most have joint faculty appointments. Hundreds of clinical trials are underway, both intramural and with external partners, and innovations are being generated in labs and clinics. In one lab, researchers are undertaking funded studies advancing new developments in restoring movement after spinal cord injury using exoskeletons muscular manipulation and electrostimulation of the spinal cord. In another lab, they’re developing Bluetooth enabled control of prosthetics with brainwaves. They’re developing innovations in surgical procedures and cancer therapy.

VA clinicians and researchers tackle biomedical issues unique to Veterans, but they also push advance research and care in health and wellness which their 9 million patients share with the rest of us - cardiac, diabetes, cancer and neurological disease, to name a few.

As I hope you know, Virginia Bio has made a commitment to help our companies and researchers understand the needs and ongoing work in research in the Veterans Administration, with the goal of creating new opportunities for growing our industry and helping our heroes. To do this right, one needs to know not only VA leadership and the exciting national programs and opportunities, but also what’s going on at the facilities across the country. That’s why I was touring McGuire VAMC.

And that’s why we are planning new and different ways to introduce the researchers and leaders at the VA system in Virginia and nationally to companies, scientists and clinicians around Virginia. Already our Medical Device CEO roundtable is exploring a quarterly meeting at McGuire, and we are planning ways to move this ahead. Look for more opportunities ahead.

We are moving ahead on our commitment in other ways, as well. On September 26 at our Women Building Bio conference, hosted at the Inova Center for Personalized Health in Fairfax, Dr. Rachel Ramoni, Chief Research and Development Officer (CRADO) of the Veterans Health Administration will be featured on the program. Dr. Ramoni oversees the VHA’s $1.6B research enterprise, encompassing groundbreaking national programs like the Million Veteran Study, as well as multicenter trials for industry. Women Building Bio will provide the opportunity to 350 leaders, women and men, from across Virginia and the near abroad of DC and Maryland, to understand and become engaged in that important work.

I’m writing this from a sidewalk table outside a Subway restaurant in (humidity free) San Diego at the BIO convention. Yesterday, I attended a press conference here at BIO announcing the Virginia Beach Innovation Challenge to this international gathering. The City of Virginia Beach has partnered with the Center for Advancing Innovation to create a long-term program to identify technologies, assemble startup teams and plant 20 startup companies focused on breakthroughs impacting Veterans’ health. We look forward to helping this great and novel way to harness the power of biomedical science and innovation for focused economic development and helping our heroes.

Lastly, remember that Virginia BIO has engaged a consultant expert in federal nondilutive funding for bioscience. Early each month, we post on our website for members only a report containing dozens of new opportunities issued by the National Institutes of Health, NSF and DARPA, among others, and importantly including DOD and the VA. I encourage our members to calendar a 15-minute date with the new list early every month to quickly determine if any opportunities align with your work, and if you are not a member to join now and enjoy access this valuable member benefit.

We’ve made a commitment, and now we’re working it. It’s a great opportunity for growth and development for biomedical science and industry in Virginia, and a great opportunity to make a difference in the lives of our military and Veterans and their families. Please let me know of your ideas to move this ahead successfully.

Best regards,



Tags:  #veterans #vamedicalcenter #g2gconsulting #biotech 

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