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Beginning in the mid 2000s, Virginia public policy makers put in place a series of state policies which markedly improved the opportunities for emerging bioscience companies to find, develop and finance biotechnologies.  The General Assembly and successive Governors worked together to enact, improve and fund: refundable R&D Tax Credit, state SBIR matching grants, CIT "Gap” Fund, 100% capital gains tax exclusion on investments in Virginia bioscience companies, Commonwealth Research and Commercialization Fund, Angel Investor Tax Credit, and  the Virginia Biosciences Health Research Corporation.  All the while, they maintained a "Best State for Business” business climate.  

The Virginia Bioscience Caucus of the General Assembly, which formed over this time, played a key role. This bipartisan, bicameral group of 60 legislators share a common interest in the development of the bioscience industry in the Commonwealth. Special champions include current caucus co-chairs Del. John O’Bannon and Sen. Janet Howell, Del. Mark Sickles, and two winners of BIO’s National State Legislator of the Year - Senator Mark Herring and Delegate Steve Landes. Virginia Bio efforts were inspired and led by Executive Director Mark Herzog and Myles Louria of Hunton & Williams, and aided by allies like the Northern Virginia Technology Council.


R.J. Kirk is a Virginia native and graduate of Radford University and the University of Virginia. In 1983 he partnered with John Gregory to found General Injectables and Vaccines, a Bland County next-day supplier of medical supplies. The company later spun off King Pharmaceuticals, now part of Pfizer. In 1996 Kirk founded New River Pharmaceuticals, serving as chairman of the board, president and CEO until he sold the company to Shire Pharmaceuticals in 2007.

Kirk also founded Third Security, a Radford-based investment management firm. In 2004 he created NewVa Capital Partners, through a partnership with Carilion Health System and the Virginia Tech Foundation, a private equity fund designed to support private businesses who are either already operating in Southwest Virginia or are willing to relocate to the region. Currently, NewVa portfolio companies include Intrexon and Pinnacle Pharmaceuticals.


  Dr. Robin Felder is an early pioneer of the burgeoning start-up community in Virginia, having successfully generated nine for-profit and non-profit companies in Charlottesville and Richmond over the past 15 years. Collectively, his companies have employed more than 100 Virginians and raised more than $40 million in investments and research funding. He currently holds 18 patents that are focused on a wide range of solutions for diabetics, hypertensives, and health monitoring and security to the elderly.

Felder is a Professor and Associate Director of Clinical Chemistry and Toxicology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. He is the quintessential professorial serial entrepreneur.

 Dr. Sheridan "Sherry" Snyder is a leading figure in biotech entrepreneurship. A graduate of the University of Virginia, Snyder is the founder of a number of leading biotech companies, including Genzyme, Biotage, Argonex, Upstate Biotechnology and Biocatalyst International – companies at the forefront of diagnostics, drug development and life science collaborations. He currently is developing two new biotechs – MolecularMD, a molecular diagnostics company and Xcovery, creator of new molecular targeted cancer drugs, three of which are in Phase 2 clinical trials.  His philanthropic support of the University of Virginia Health Center contributed to the construction of a Children’s Hospital, the Emily Couric Cancer Center and the Sheridan G. Snyder Translational Research Center.

In 1981, Snyder founded Genzyme and served as Chairman, President and CEO. Genzyme’s business focuses on enzyme deficiency diseases. It first produced diagnostic enzymes for victims of Gaucher’s disease, a rare chronic disorder that afflicts 10,000 young Hasidic Jews each year. The company currently employs 10,000 people worldwide, with approximately $3.6 billion in revenues and a market valuation of $20 billion.

  Dr. Timothy Macdonald, Professor of Chemistry and Pharmacology and past Chairman of Chemistry at the University of Virginia, is an expert and early pioneer in the creation of T-type calcium channel blockers for use in cancer treatment. He is also an outstanding entrepreneur, inventor and educator, having shepherded four of his own compounds from the bench to the clinic and helped to oversee the development of another dozen drugs as a consultant to the pharmaceutical industry.

Macdonald is a founding scientist of six Virginia pharmaceutical companies: Adenosine Therapeutics LLC, AlGlutamine LLC, SphynKx Therapeutics LLC, Stomavite LLC, Tau Therapeutics LLC and Xdynia LLC. He has more than 225 publications and 55 pending and issued patents. Macdonald’s influence on the biotech community continues to spread, as greater than 75percent of his former graduate students and postdoctoral associates have continued their careers as leaders in the pharmaceutical industry.

Dr. Tracy Wilkins is a biotech pioneer in Virginia. An internationally recognized expert in anaerobic microbiology, he has served as Director of the Virginia Tech Anaerobe Lab - one of few institutions in the world dedicated to the study of anaerobic organisms, and the Fralin Biotechnology Center, and the original Stroobants Professor of Agricultural Biotechnology at Virginia Tech.  In 1989 Dr. Wilkins, with Dr. David Lyerly among others, founded TechLab and today as CEO and VP R&D they lead this dynamic company with over 125 research and manufacturing employees in Blacksburg and Radford.  Dr. Wilkins also founded VT spinout TransPharm to produce human therapeutic proteins in the milk of livestock, sold it to PPL, and its work continues today.

As a result of TechLab’s long-standing relationships with UVA's Dr. Bill Petri, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and International Health, the company developed the only commercially available kit for distinguishing between pathogenic and non-pathogenic Entamoeba histolytica infection, the most common cause of diarrhea/dysentery in developing countries. At TechLab, research continues internally, and in collaborations with various universities, on markers of intestinal inflammation, the toxins of Clostridium difficile, amebiasis, vaccine development and developing diagnostics for detecting Giargia and cryptosporidium infection.

  The Richmond-based United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) is the private non-profit organization that manages the United States’ organ transplant system for the federal government. UNOS is involved in many aspects of the organ transplant and donation process, including maintaining the database, updating the national transplant waiting list, matching donors to recipients, offering assistance to patients and families, educating about organ donation and developing policies to ensure the best use of the limited supply.

The concept of UNOS was born out of the South-Eastern Organ Procurement Foundation, founded by Dr. David Hume and Dr. Bernard Amos. SEOPF pioneered the concept of transporting organs from one center to another to provide the best possible organ matching for transplant. This approach dramatically improved organ transplantation and has saved hundreds of thousands of lives over the last 40 years.

 The Virginia Biotechnology Research Park in Richmond is the state’s largest, most concentrated hub of biotechnology, biomedical research and commercialization.  Since opening in 1995, the Park has grown to hold over 60 bioscience companies, non-profits, research institutions and public medical laboratories, occupying 1.3 million square feet of research, laboratory and office space and employing 2,700.  Home to start-ups and well established companies, the Park has attracted foreign companies from over a half dozen countries. The Park is a path-breaking collaboration of Virginia Commonwealth University, the City of Richmond, and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Former VCU President Eugene P. Trani envisioned creating a commercial research park next to the VCU Medical Center to seed a bioscience industry. Robert T. Skunda, as the Commonwealth’s Secretary of Commerce & Trade, helped form the Park Authority in 1992, and from 1997 to date has led the Park as President and CEO through its remarkable growth and success. Early Park leaders included Bob Olsen during the planning phases and interim directors Dr. William Dewey, VCU Vice President for Research and Jim Farinholt, Vice President for Economic Development, during initial build out. The Park has helped establish Virginia as a bona-fide competitor in biotechnology.

 The Virginia Tech Carilion  (VTC) is an innovative public-private partnership that has launched a new era in research and commercialization of the biosciences in Southwest Virginia.  VTC leverages Virginia Tech’s world-class strength in the life sciences, bioinformatics, and engineering with Carilion Clinic’s highly experienced medical staff and rich history in medical education, and the Commonwealth’s commitment to build a new medical school – the VTC School of Medicine.  This concentration of excellence is matched by a resolve to spin out technologies and companies that create economic activity in Greater Roanoke and improve the health of the world.

The 19 research teams (and counting) at VTC Research Institute aim to understand the molecular basis for health and disease, and development of diagnostic tools, treatments and therapies in addiction and substance abuse, cancer, cerebral palsy, child neglect, developmental disabilities, epilepsy, heart disease, infectious disease, mental retardation, obesity and diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. Each research team is led by a principal investigator who also holds a faculty appointment at Virginia Tech, and comprised of postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, technicians and medical students from the VTC School of Medicine, as well as undergraduate students from Virginia Tech.

In 2000 the U.S. division of PPL Corporation, based in Blacksburg, created the world’s first cloned pig.  That breakthrough continues to reverberate in Virginia and around the world.  Subsequently, company researchers used the combination of cloning and genetic engineering to produce the first genetically engineered pigs with knockout of a key pig gene (alpha-Gal) towards overcoming hyper acute rejection of transplanted organs and cells. Following this achievement, the company raised more than $20 million in venture capital and other funding and in 2003 spun out as an independent company, Revivicor Inc., under the leadership of CEO David Ayares. Revivicor was acquired in 2011 by United Therapeutics, a $3 billion market cap biotech company, but remains a wholly owned subsidiary with headquarters in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center in Blacksburg.

Today Revivicor is a regenerative medicine company focused on providing a safe, human-compatible, alternative tissue source for human therapeutic use towards overcoming the worldwide organ shortage crisis. The pre-clinical phase company now produces pig islets, organs (lung, heart, liver), and medical devices. While lung therapies are a major focus, anticipated first products are non-viable surgical mesh tissue scaffolds and tendons for ACL repair, derived from its GalSafe™ pig line.

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