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Life Science Forum introduces university research, regional companies


ROANOKE, Va., Sept. 22, 2011 – The Fifth Annual Southwest Virginia Life Science Forum on the evening of Oct. 6 will bring together university researchers and business people to discuss discoveries and possible collaborations. 

There will also be a day-long workshop on how to apply for funding from the National Institutes of Health Small Business Innovation Research program, and a late-afternoon talk from a distinguished scholar on how the brain processes olfactory information.

The forum and reception from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute in Roanoke will be an opportunity for students to learn about jobs, university scientists to meet people from Virginia's outstanding biological and medical product companies, and business people to learn about the most recent research results, which the scientists have only begun to report, and what they are working on. More than 100 academic and private sector bioscience leaders are expected to participate. Poster presentations will include biotechnology, biomaterials, nanotechnology, neuroscience, and biomedical engineering.

The forum is organized by the Virginia Biotechnology Association and the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council and co-sponsored by Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, Fralin Life Science Institute at Virginia Tech, Novozymes, and Greenblum & Bernstein PLC.

"Attendees at this event will see firsthand the wealth of local bioscience research that is poised for commercial applications," said Mark A. Herzog, executive director of the Virginia Biotechnology Association. "Anyone with an interest in technology-based start-up companies and entrepreneurial development will want to be in the room."

"Virginia is a vibrant area for life science research," said Tim Howland, associate director of corporate relations in the College of Science at Virginia Tech. "Healthcare venture capital firms invested $159 million dollars in southwest Virginia firms in the first six months of 2011. This is more than Maryland and North Carolina combined." He pointed to such leading companies as Intrexon, PixelOptics, and Elenza Inc., all located in the Roanoke-Blacksburg region. Six local companies recently received Therapeutic Discovery Project Grants (Affordable Care Act of 2010) as firms with “significant potential to produce new and cost-saving therapies, support jobs, and increase U.S. competitiveness,” Howland said. These firms are OcuCure Therapeutics,Elenza, Revivicor, Synthonics, Techulon, and Axon Nutritionals.

Howland says he expects that these companies and others with that kind of potential will be at the forum.

The Fralin Life Science Institute supports Virginia Tech's broad life science research programs by investing in seed projects that hold great promise. "Fralin is proud to sponsor the Southwest Virginia Life Science Forum" said Dennis Dean, institute director and University Distinguished Professor. "This is a unique venue for scientists from academia and industry to exchange ideas, not just another CEO to CEO networking event."

According to Mike Friedlander, executive director of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, "The Roanoke and Blacksburg areas are undergoing a transformational change in the activity level in the biosciences. Between Virginia Tech, Carilion Clinic, the new Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute and Medical School, and the vibrant biotechnology business sector, there is an emerging scientific, entrepreneurial, and economic force in this region. There are many untapped discoveries and innovations from the community's scientists that have the potential to bring the business, scientific, and academic communities together here in a way similar to other highly successful regions, such as in northern California, North Carolina, and Massachusetts."

The forum is free, but registration is appreciated. Learn more and register online.

For those seeking National Institutes of Health (NIH) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) funding, a workshop sponsored by Virginia's Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) begins at 8:30 a.m. with an overview of CIT's support of SBIR/STTR to Virginia based tech firms, CIT's GAP Funds, and an update on Virginia's $50,000 NIH Phase I SBIR Matching Grant Program.

From 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., there will be instruction on SBIR/STTR program detail and strategies for targeting a proposal to meet the agency's mission and requirements, and from 1:15 to 5 p.m., there will be step-by-step details on the proposal preparation, including budgets, commercialization, and common pitfalls. The trainer is Lisa Kurek of Biotechnology Business Consultants.

Cost for the NIH SBIR/STTR workshop is $50 for Virginia-based firms, $30 for university researchers who may be or are considering becoming entrepreneurs or who work with businesses, and $75 for firms from outside Virginia. Register online.

At 5 p.m., as part of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute Distinguished Visiting Scholar series, there will be a guest lecture by Professor Matt Wachowiak of the University of Utah School of Medicine on sensory encoding and brain processing of olfactory information. Wachowiak is the Utah Science, Technology, and Research Initiative Professor of Physiology, Brain and Behavior and principal investigator of the nanoscopic and biomedical photonic mapping program at the university.

Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute is located at 2 Riverside Circle, Roanoke. Parking is free. Also, shuttle service will be provided from Blacksburg. There is more information online.

Seven Virginia Tech institutes support research and creative scholarship in strategically important areas, drawing upon the university's established strengths. The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, and the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute focus on national research priorities, including translational health and medical research, national security, and safe infrastructure. The Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science, Fralin Life Science Institute, and the Institute for Society, Culture, and Environment provide organizational and financial support to develop opportunities at the intersection of engineering, science, and medicine; target infectious disease; and advance human development. The Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology promotes creativity, critical thinking, and life-long learning.