By David Hungate
Gov. McAuliffe signs bond bill, advances Health Sciences and Technology Innovation District in Roanoke
Gov. Terry McAuliffe authorized more than $2.2 billion in state capital improvement projects, including Virginia Tech’s request for about $45 million to expand health sciences and technology research and training assets in Roanoke, during a formal signing of a bipartisan state bond bill Friday at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.
The university requested $46.7 million in state funding — to be matched by $21 million from Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic — to construct a 105,000 square-foot biosciences addition at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.
Officials say the investments will leverage the combined resources of the state, Virginia Tech, and Carilion Clinic to jumpstart a far-reaching Health Sciences and Technology Innovation District in Roanoke.
“We are building a foundation for biotechnology and medical research that will establish Virginia as a hotbed for companies who want to be shoulder-to-shoulder with world-class collaborators and a highly trained technical workforce,” said Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. “This is a cornerstone of a new Virginia economy and will position the Commonwealth as a national leader in advanced research.”
McAuliffe signed the bond bill at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute alongside Virginia President Tim Sands, Carilion Clinic President and Chief Executive Officer Nancy Howell Agee, state Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-24th District, and state Sen. John S. Edwards, D-21st District.
“We are grateful to the governor and the general assembly and intend to make the most of this significant investment,” Sands said. “It is our responsibility to leverage our partnerships in research and innovation with Carilion Clinic and other key partners to catalyze the development of the Virginia economy, and to promote access, affordability, and success for our students.”
The new building will house biomedical research facilities, including high-resolution research imaging equipment. Once fully staffed, the annual economic impact of the expanded program would be $191 million annually, according to university estimates.
“The approval of the budget to expand the Research Institute further validates the strategic, public-private partnership that Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic have been developing over the last decade,” said Nancy Howell Agee, president and CEO of Carilion Clinic. “This is a big step forward for our region and our state and I can hardly wait to see what this Virginia Tech Carilion alliance will look like in the coming years.”
Officials envision a far-reaching health sciences and technology innovation hub in Roanoke.
“This effort will be the core of an innovation district to catalyze interactions at the intersection of health sciences and technology, including industry, community, faculty, and student participation,” Provost Thanassis Rikakis said. “Faculty members, undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral associates throughout the university system will flow through the Roanoke campus to learn in a real-world context and interact with Carilion clinicians, health professionals, and diverse patient populations. Discoveries and advances will attract established health technology industry to the city and spin off ground breaking new companies that will choose Roanoke as their base so they can continue to leverage the diverse talent of the Health Sciences and Technology district. “
University officials say the project will enable the recruitment of an additional 25 research teams, which would raise the total number of teams doing scientific investigations in Roanoke to about 55.
“The approval of the bond issue to support the expansion of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute is greatly appreciated and represents a strong vote of confidence in the success of the biomedical research enterprise at VTCRI from the Commonwealth,” said Michael Friedlander, Virginia Tech’s vice president for health sciences and technology and the executive director of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute. “This funding will provide new state-of-the-art space and infrastructure for researchers at Virginia Tech and Carilion to grow their research programs as well as to attract additional top talent, catalyzing the development of the greater health sciences and technology innovation district in Roanoke. VTCRI investigators will continue to expand their innovative translational work that is providing major new insights into understanding the heart, brain and immune systems as well as developing new diagnostics and therapeutics to treat disorders of these systems.”
Friedlander said in addition to these advances, VTCRI scientists are making inroads into cancer, infectious diseases, and wound-healing, putting the Virginia Tech-Carilion public-private collaborative partnership on the world health science map
“We will also build an even stronger foundation with Virginia Tech’s graduate programs such as Translational Biology, Medicine and Health as well as with undergraduate programs and the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine to give students enhanced opportunities for meaningful translational research experiences,” Friedlander said. “Moreover, the growth of the research institute and the expanded portfolio of the Virginia Tech-Carilion partnership will continue to have significant economic impact in the Roanoke community and region, while also providing enhanced outreach opportunities for the entire community.”
In addition to the biosciences building, the bond bill will provide funding for other Virginia Tech projects, including:
- $3.7 million for the Undergraduate Science Laboratory building, which is an estimated $74.8 million project that will complement the Undergraduate Classroom Building now under construction.
- $61 million for the Holden Hall renovation project, which is expected to cost $73.5 million. This is the first step in updating and expanding facilities to accommodate growth in the College of Engineering as well as development of academic strengths in the emerging Destination Areas.
- $2 million for the “Cyber Range.” Virginia Tech will work with education institutions across the state and state government leaders to create shared resources to provide experiential learning opportunities for cybersecurity education.
- $35.2 million for new chiller capacity to support the growing infrastructure of the Blacksburg campus.
- $22.5 million for Phase I of a much-needed upgrade to animal facilities. Agriculture and Forestry represent the largest portion of the Virginia economy, with annual revenues of over $70 billion. The facilities will allow Virginia Tech to support growth in this important sector.