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Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute Breaking Ground on Expansion

Tuesday, October 24, 2017  
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Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic are breaking ground to expand their research institute, which the partners expect will spark a wave of educational, medical and economic growth in Roanoke.

Leaders said the $90 million project will be home to 25 additional research teams, hundreds of students and faculty and an oncology center for dogs and cats.
Tech President Timothy Sands said the building “will jump-start our efforts to translate the discoveries that are made in our health science and technology partnership into companies, and attract partners globally to Roanoke.”

Tech and Carilion also have created a $15 million venture capital fund that will help startups take root around its campus. They expect to spin off more lab discoveries into new businesses, and they anticipate that other businesses will develop around the campus to support the additional faculty and students.

“One of the things that is important to me and to Tim Sands is we don’t want VTC to be the end game. We are the catalyst for innovation, entrepreneurism and economic growth for this region,” said Carilion CEO Nancy Agee. “That’s where we see the end game as more a continued growth and change, and real excitement to grow the economy.”

“We have grand visions, and this is just the beginning of the second phase,” Sands said.

The first phase began not quite a decade ago, when Virginia Tech and Carilion in 2008 joined forces to build a small medical school and research institute on a brownfield along the Roanoke River. The city had obtained the property and razed industrial buildings to make way for Carilion’s growth and for other businesses to grow around biomedicine.

By the time the school opened in 2010, Carilion was in the process of turning its collection of hospitals and primary care practices into a clinic with integrated patient care.

The partners’ model for the medical school included an extra component, requiring students to become heavily involved in research. This helped Carilion attract specialists and subspecialists while doubling its medical staff to 1,000 physicians. It also helped Tech attract researchers in health sciences, some with international reputations.

“I don’t believe we would be where we are if not for the relationship that we’ve created with Virginia Tech,” Agee said. “This isn’t about buildings but about staff we’ve brought in: physicians, providers, researchers, teachers, medical students. We created this health science ecosystem that’s pretty amazing.”

The growth forced the partners last year to decide whether to be satisfied or to grow. They opted to expand research. The state agreed to pay for part of it through a bond issue. The building is expected to cost about $83 million for construction and $6 million to equip. Carilion is contributing $2 million worth of land and $11 million toward construction, while Virginia Tech is contributing $29 million and the state’s share will be $48 million, according to Tech’s budget office.

Sands said Tech is working on plans to develop housing and other services to support faculty and students and is looking to involve the private sector and donors.
“There is certainly a role for philanthropy that’s going to be key here. It’s not going to just be the revenue that we normally get through the university,” he said. “There’s going to have to be additional contributions from the community and our donors. We are working with them to see the potential. It’s a great conversation because most of our friends and alumni who are in the Roanoke area see the impact of the partnership with Carilion Clinic and they are very anxious to be part of that.”

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