Dear Members and Friends,
One of the missions of Virginia Bio is to lead, and sometimes that means identifying big opportunities for our members and the state and put our shoulder to the wheel. Let me share a few.
Last week, it was my treat to serve as MC for the VCU School of Engineering’s first Medicines for All Summit, bringing together industry, academic researchers, global public health experts from across the nation and world to Richmond, to spark the collaborative work of the M4All Institute, recently formed with the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. By re-engineering the chemistries and manufacturing processes by which small molecule pharmaceuticals are made, M4All is already making an impact on the price and distribution of one major global public health drug – an antiretroviral, with more in the pipeline, and also holds the promise of significantly reducing the cost and barriers to entry to the generic drug industry, improving access to medicines for all. The technology opens the possibility for entirely new modes of manufacture, and could seed a cluster of innovative companies in the region.
This Wednesday, we were honored to co-host a conference on Digital Health “Bringing Data to Life” along with Vibrent Health, Inova Center for Personalized Health and Dulles Region Chamber of Commerce. 150 attendees heard from a wide variety of companies and university researchers, as well as NIH and NSF funders working in this emerging area. It was the first small step toward a vision of gathering all the considerable strengths in Virginia, DC and Maryland in this hot space, and perhaps creating a Center or Network of Excellence to work together on solving the toughest challenges and pursing opportunities no one company or university can pursue alone.
Several weeks ago, at the invitation of Virginia Beach Economic Development, I gave remarks at a symposium at the Oxford Biotech Network on the occasion of their Annual Dinner, “Doing (Bioscience) Business to the United States”. My conversations during my visit opened my eyes to a commonality of strategies among English companies - if not European companies broadly: they all plan on crossing the pond at some point to establish a US presence to access the US market, and that provides opportunities to Virginia. I applaud the Virginia Beach team for their vision, and the relationship they’ve built with OBN.
Switching gears to state economic development policy, I’ve lent a hand over the last six months on the Region 4 GoVirginia Foundation Board and the Virginia Research Investment Fund project evaluation team to help build up the systems and processes for these new and significant economic development programs impacting our industry, and to help connect them throughout our community. Lesson learned: its’ not easy to stand up a new state program. I am hopeful these two programs will thrive. Further reflecting on this fact gives me renewed gratitude for the accomplishments of VBHRC over four short years.
Finally, in a different vein, Cassandra Isley on our team has been working closely with our new member Canon Virginia, Inc., which is undertaking a large expansion of its medical device CMO work in Newport News, to help them connect to members across the state. We wish them the best, as the realization of their plans will be a strong addition to that region, and to the medical device industry across the state.
If you see major opportunities to grow bioscience R&D and commercialization in Virginia that you don’t think we are aware of, please let us know and we will do our best to help in any way we can.