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ODU, EVMS, Sentara Name Partnership Executive Director

Kevin Leslie has been named executive director of the new Hampton Roads Biomedical Research Consortium (HRBRC), a partnership between Old Dominion University, Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) and Sentara Healthcare.

Recently approved by Gov. Ralph Northam and the General Assembly, the HRBRC aims to strengthen the relationship among the three institutions and to jump start more research collaboration as well as to ultimately generate health-care improvements in Hampton Roads, making it more efficient and less expensive.

“The state has commissioned a study to recommend the optimal structure for our partnership. But for now, the consortium’s first order of business is to mine the region’s vast collection of health-care data – stripped of personal information,” said Morris Foster, Old Dominion’s vice president for research who helped establish the framework for the consortium. “The resulting algorithms and applications could produce extensive benefits for our region, including wearable devices to monitor health and more pinpointed recommendations for patients.”

Leslie was previously the associate director of VCU Ventures, a division at Virginia Commonwealth University that helps faculty and staff launch startup companies with an eye to innovation in health care. He received his Ph.D. in biophysics from VCU and has worked as a senior scientist in the private sector.

“Kevin knows the biotech ecosystem in the commonwealth, and he’s well-versed in sources of funding opportunities, both on the public and private sides,” Foster said. “Under his direction, the consortium stands poised to build the biotech sector in Hampton Roads and catalyze more innovation.”

Dr. Jordan Asher, Sentara’s chief physician executive, expressed his appreciation for the commonwealth’s support and added: “We are excited to collaborate with ODU and EVMS in this new endeavor to advance research in the Hampton Roads region that will improve the health of our communities.”

“We welcome Kevin to the region and are excited to collaborate with him and our partners in the HRBRC to advance biohealth development and innovation,” said William Wasilenko, vice dean for research at EVMS.

Leslie believes the region as a whole could see a big economic-development boost.

“The HRBRC embodies what drives and excites me: the challenges of a startup, the pursuit of health equity, community building and working with diverse and talented people,” Leslie said. “The foundational pieces of a world-class pipeline are in place. Now, we finally have the opportunity to coordinate them in earnest.

“We’re going to advance science and medicine while holistically strengthening Hampton Roads, and I’m honored to be a part of it.”

According to Foster, Old Dominion’s faculty will benefit from increased opportunities for collaboration with colleagues at EVMS and Sentara and will become more competitive for NIH grants.

“Graduate students will also gain valuable experience in projects that will strengthen their dissertations and their scientific potential after they leave ODU,” he said.

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