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Virginia Tech Creates Expansive Cancer Research Initiative

Wednesday, October 16, 2019  
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Virginia Tech has developed a university-wide cancer research strategy to create and expand synergies among more than 30 existing research teams at work finding new ways to prevent, quickly diagnose, and treat cancers.

The effort will increase cooperation and connections among Virginia Tech’s growing cancer research community, help recruit additional cancer researchers, provide access to state-of-the-art shared research resources, foster relationships with institutions and agencies recognized as world leaders in cancer treatment and research, and enhance the already substantial cancer research funding at the university.

“Virginia Tech has dozens of dedicated, smart people working in research labs developing innovations for patients and families in their struggles with this disease, but we usually talk about their work on an individual level,” said Michael Friedlander, vice president for health sciences and technology at Virginia Tech. “By looking at the totality of Virginia Tech’s efforts, the optics reveal a broad, diverse landscape of faculty members and expertise across colleges, centers, and institutes being applied to solve the health issues and social problems caused by cancer.”

Virginia Tech has 22 active cancer research awards from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with an annual value of $4.3 million.

More than 30 research teams are distributed across its Blacksburg-Roanoke campus with affiliations that include the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, the College of Science, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the College of Engineering, the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, the Fralin Life Sciences Institute, and the Virginia Tech Center for Drug Discovery.

In addition, synergies continue to flourish with Carilion Clinic, Virginia Tech’s clinical partner.

“With Carilion’s expansive plans for growth to improve health care in the region, along with the recent announcement regarding a new Carilion children’s facility for specialty services, Virginia Tech expects additional opportunities for collaborations and partnerships in children’s health will increase, including cancer research and care,” Friedlander said.

Virginia Tech will now create a new strategic focus on cancer in children while it continues to develop cross-cutting research throughout the university and strategic relationships with federal agencies, private industry, and community partners — all aimed at the development of successful diagnostics and treatments for cancer.

Friedlander cited a productive relationship with Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., one of the nation’s premier children’s hospitals that is consistently ranked in the nation’s top six. Its neonatology program is ranked No. 1 in the country.

“Virginia Tech and Children’s National have a long history of collaboration, including joint NIH research grants, shared intellectual property, and shared scientific advisory efforts,” said Friedlander, who is also the executive director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute. “We fully expect to become more engaged in the rich innovation ecosystem in the Washington, D.C., area as we move forward.”

The university plans to recruit several new research teams to work on pediatric brain cancer research.

The new cancer research effort will be coordinated through Virginia Tech’s Office of the Vice President for Health Sciences and Technology, which is under the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost.

“With a growing emphasis on biomedical research to improve the lives of humans and animals, stretching from the VTC health sciences and technology campus in the Roanoke Innovation Corridor to every corner of Virginia Tech, the time is perfect to bring our outstanding faculty and programs together in a more integrated and cohesive way,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Cyril Clarke. “This initiative will advance the transdisciplinary strengths of Virginia Tech’s engineering, computational, life sciences, physical sciences, and behavioral and social sciences to address one of the nation’s leading causes of mortality – cancer.”

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