Virginia Economic Review: First Quarter 2022

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LIFE SCIENCES innovation Partnerships highlight ecosystem of collaboration


The Alliance, named after the French-American alliance during the Revolutionary War, departs from Riverwalk Landing Pier in Yorktown three times a week for sailing tours of the Chesapeake Bay and the Historic Triangle. Passengers are encouraged to help set sail.


Contents 18 A Supply Chain Reaction Richmond and Petersburg host a new pharmaceutical cluster making essential medicines with innovative techniques

22 The Life Sciences in Virginia: Innovation and Synergy Drive Growth Six clusters across the Commonwealth that are leveraging local and regional synergies to grow the life sciences industry

24 28 32 36 38 42

Northern Virginia Richmond Charlottesville

04 Facts & Figures 06 Selected Virginia Wins 10 Helping Life Sciences Companies Succeed in Virginia: A Conversation With John Newby 16 Thriving Life Sciences Industry Ecosystem

Roanoke/Blacksburg Hampton Roads Shenandoah Valley

52 Virginia Life Sciences Ecosystem Helps Make Research Breakthroughs Reality Accelerators and investors help startups refine ideas and prove promising concepts

58 GlaxoSmithKline Hits the Ground Running in Richmond The pharmaceutical giant uses the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program to staff up quickly

46 Nurturing Innovation in the Life Sciences: A Conversation With Chandra Briggman 64 Positioned to Thrive 66 Regional Spotlight 72 Economic Development Partners in Virginia

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The John H. Kerr Reservoir in Charlotte, Halifax, and Mecklenburg counties, also known as Buggs Island Lake, boasts more than 800 miles of shoreline. Richard Anderson set the current world record for the largest blue catfish catch when he pulled a 143-pound fish out of the lake in 2011.


Talent, Research Advantages Drive Life Sciences Innovation in Virginia THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC laid bare

the importance of a robust U.S. life sciences industry, and Virginia companies are making vital breakthroughs to help safeguard Americans’ health. The Commonwealth’s appeal to life sciences companies starts with its internationally recognized research and development facilities. These federally funded and private facilities, along with Virginia’s prestigious research universities, give companies direct access to cuttingedge technology and leading researchers. Virginia’s life sciences ecosystem is broad and encompasses public and private research and development, medical laboratories, pharmaceutical and equipment manufacturing, and distribution of healthcare products. Top companies in the life sciences industry choose to locate in Virginia because of the Commonwealth’s elite talent, advanced culture of innovation, logistical advantages, competitive costs, and the best business climate in the country as ranked by CNBC and Business Facilities in 2021. Virginia’s strategic location on the East Coast provides important advantages for the life sciences industry, including a prime position in the center of the Mid-Atlantic’s booming life sciences cluster and ready access to suppliers and major hubs of economic activity along the Northeast Corridor and across the Southeast and Midwest. The Commonwealth provides proximity to the nation’s capital and federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and National Science Foundation.

In this issue of Virginia Economic Review, we go in depth on an innovative partnership in Richmond and Petersburg aimed at solving supply chain issues for essential medicines and profile emerging life sciences clusters in several Virginia regions, along with an overview of the landscape surrounding life sciences funding and entrepreneurialism in the Commonwealth. Also included are discussions with two thought leaders intimately familiar with the Virginia life sciences industry: John Newby, CEO of Virginia Bio, the nonprofit statewide trade association that serves and promotes the life sciences industry in the Commonwealth, and Chandra Briggman, president and CEO of Activation Capital and the VA Bio+Tech Park in Richmond. We hope you enjoy this look at an industry that turns Virginia’s best selling points into crucial advancements for the health of all Americans. Best regards,

Jason El Koubi Interim President and CEO, Virginia Economic Development Partnership


Facts Figures




Federal R&D Obligations



BioHealth Capital Region

Top 10 2019 Employed Science, Engineering, and Health Doctorate Holders 4

2019 Science, Engineering, and Health Graduate Students in Institutions Granting Research-Based Graduate Degrees



Life Sciences Total Employment and Labor Pool Cushman & Wakefield, 2021


Total STEM Degrees Jones Lang LaSalle, 2021


Most Educated Metro Areas in the Country


Northern Virginia/ Greater Washington Metro




Selected Virginia Wins CoStar Group, Inc., a leading provider of real estate information, analytics, and online marketplaces, expects to invest more than $460 million to expand in the city of Richmond. The company plans to establish a Corporate Campus that will include sales, marketing, software development, customer service, and support functions on four acres adjacent to its current facility, which serves as the company’s headquarters for research and data analytics. Virginia competed with several other states in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for the project, which is expected to create more than 2,000 new jobs. The new campus represents approximately 750,000 square feet of new office and retail space and is expected to include a 26-story, LEED-certified office building and a six-story multipurpose building to be used as a central location for employee amenities. The multipurpose employee facility will include conference facilities, fitness and wellness facilities, an auditorium, and mixed-use retail and restaurant spaces. Once completed, CoStar Group will occupy approximately 1 million square feet of office space in downtown Richmond. CoStar Group conducts expansive, ongoing research to produce and maintain the largest and most comprehensive database of real estate information in the country. The company’s online services enable clients to analyze, interpret, and gain insight on commercial property values, market conditions, and current availability. CoStar Group’s brands include CoStar,, LoopNet, and, and its websites attract hundreds of millions of unique monthly visitors. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., CoStar Group maintains offices throughout the U.S. and in Europe, Canada, and Asia with a staff of approximately 4,800 worldwide.

Richmond is a growing community with access to a deep pool of diverse, highly skilled workers, a vibrant culture of innovation, and a wonderful quality of life for our existing and future employees. ANDY FLORANCE Founder and CEO, CoStar Group, Inc.


Rendering of CoStar Group Corporate Campus, Richmond


Selected Virginia Wins Central Virginia

Hampton Roads


Celadon Development Corporation

Jobs: 18 New Jobs CapEx: $260K Locality: Albemarle County

Greater Fredericksburg

Jobs: 210 New Jobs CapEx: $267M Locality: City of Chesapeake

UVision USA Corporation

Mercana Furniture and Décor

Jobs: 40 New Jobs CapEx: $2.2M Locality: Stafford County

Jobs: 26 New Jobs CapEx: $8.5M Locality: City of Newport News

Greater Richmond

Lynchburg Region

Jobs: 352 New Jobs CapEx: $185.2M Locality: New Kent County

Jobs: 97 New Jobs Locality: Campbell County

AutoZone, Inc.

BWX Technologies, Inc.

Intact Technology

Northern Shenandoah Valley

Jobs: 125 New Jobs CapEx: $1.5M Locality: City of Richmond

Nature’s Touch Frozen Foods

Mondelēz International Inc. Jobs: 80 New Jobs CapEx: $122.5M Locality: Henrico County

Performance Food Group Company

Jobs: 67 New Jobs CapEx: $40.3M Locality: Warren County

TFC Poultry LLC

Northern Virginia

Jobs: 180 New Jobs CapEx: $2.6M Locality: Fairfax County


Jobs: 400 New Jobs CapEx: $15.9M Locality: Fairfax County

Shenandoah Valley Amazon

Jobs: 500 New Jobs Locality: Augusta County

Southwest Virginia Skyline Fabricating Inc. Jobs: 22 New Jobs CapEx: $675K Locality: Buchanan County

VFP Inc.

Jobs: 111 New Jobs CapEx: $31.5M Locality: City of Winchester

Jobs: 30 New Jobs CapEx: $7.2M Locality: Scott County

Jobs: 125 New Jobs CapEx: $80.2M Locality: Hanover County

Starplast USA

Jobs: 300 New Jobs CapEx: $17.7M Locality: Chesterfield County


Jobs: 249 New Jobs CapEx: $34.2M Locality: Hanover County

Roanoke Region New River Valley

Southwest Virginia I81-I77 Crossroads


Northern Shenandoah Valley

Washington, D.C.

Northern Virginia Shenandoah Valley Central Virginia

Greater Fredericksburg

Northern Neck

Middle Peninsula Greater Richmond Lynchburg Region

Eastern Shore South Central Virginia

Southern Virginia

Virginia’s Gateway Region Hampton Roads



HELPING LIFE SCIENCES COMPANIES SUCCEED IN VIRGINIA A Conversation With John Newby John Newby is CEO of Virginia Bio, the nonprofit statewide trade association that serves and promotes the life sciences industry in the Commonwealth. VEDP Interim President and CEO Jason El Koubi spoke with Newby about recent life sciences success stories in the Commonwealth and Virginia Bio’s efforts to grow the industry, including the recently announced industry hub, Virginia Bio-Connect.



Jason El Koubi: Let’s start with an overview of Virginia Bio. Can you tell us a little bit about the organization, its mission, and its activities? John Newby: We’re the trade association for the life sciences industry here in Virginia. We’re in our 30th year of service to the industry and the Commonwealth with 270 members, from startups to strategics, research institutions, and all other organizations that support life sciences. Our vision is to foster a life sciences ecosystem recognized nationally for its innovation, commercial success, and contributions to improved health for all. Our mission is to promote innovation and growth through strengthened networks, advocacy, capital investment, talent attraction, development, and retention, advancing the next generation of leaders. How do we do that? We provide education and partnership opportunities for our young companies, and opportunities for our strategics to connect with these startups here in Virginia. We provide information and knowledge about how to obtain funding for these very challenging types of companies. Life sciences companies can take 15–20 years before they get to the end of the cycle to a successful exit, so they have lots of funding requirements during that time. We provide advocacy for the industry. We’re the voice of life sciences in Virginia, with advocacy before federal and state policymakers. And finally, not unlike any other 501(c)(6), we provide events to spur collaboration and bring people together, educating on what we do. El Koubi: Can you go into more detail about the main priorities of Virginia Bio and the ways that the organization is supporting the life sciences industry in Virginia?


Life science companies can take 15–20 years before they get to the end of the cycle to a successful exit, so they have lots of funding requirements during that time. JOHN NEWBY CEO, Virginia Bio

Newby: One priority, which is pretty central to what we do and who we are, is to support the majority of our corporate members, small startups. Over 70% of our member companies are these small startups, and that reflects the majority of the industry nationwide. These companies have a lot of challenges — not just the science, which, of course, is a challenge in and unto itself — but the funding, and working with the FDA to meet those hurdles successfully. That’s a major goal at Virginia Bio: a real focused effort to help our small companies who will eventually become either medium-sized companies or even be acquired by larger companies, as is usually their life cycle. We also aim to promote life sciences and business-friendly policies at state and federal levels. Most recently, it’s included advocating to the state to increase funding for the Catalyst grant we have in Virginia that supports partnerships between private-sector industries and research universities to spin out technologies. It also includes advocating and educating legislators with respect to policies that are constantly being suggested for the industry, such as current discussions around prescription drug pricing and discussions around right to repair in the manufacturing space — things that could either positively help or negatively affect the biotech industry’s ability to grow and expand in Virginia. Another major goal is what we’re trying to do with the new Build Virginia grant we recently received to strengthen the ecosystem by connecting it in more tangible ways under a program that we call Virginia Bio-Connect. El Koubi: Let’s dive into Virginia Bio-Connect, the statewide industry hub that was recently announced. Tell us about this initiative’s vision.


Newby: We think it will be a game-changer in Virginia. We received a $3.2 million Growth and Opportunity Fund grant from the Commonwealth in December 2020. The goal is to more strongly stitch together our entire ecosystem.

officer. You’ve practiced law. You were the commissioner of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services. And now you lead Virginia Bio. How have those different experiences prepared you to lead Virginia Bio when life sciences are in the spotlight?

Virginia is composed of many regions that each have their own unique biotech and bioscience focuses. For the most part, we know who they are and we talk to each other, but we’re not tied together very tightly. The vision is a more integrated statewide ecosystem — sharing events, job opportunities, and best practices.

Newby: Virginia’s biotech industry has, for years, been a sleeping giant waiting to emerge. My arrival was fortuitous. Virginia Bio had great leaders who laid the path and organization for this association for me. And we had an industry poised for growth. I had military and state government leadership experience, as well as connections in the state and knowledge of the mechanics of state governance. I knew about the industry from my time doing biopharmaceutical work as a patent lawyer for about a decade.

We have three stated aims for Virginia Bio-Connect. Aim No.1 is to strengthen the life sciences industry generally. Our second aim is to attract and develop a diverse workforce. We have great need for highly talented, trained, and skilled individuals. The average salary in Virginia life sciences is about $80,000–85,000, which is fairly high compared with other industries, because of the particular skills needed. We’re going to have an internship program to fill the pipeline. One hundred interns will be hired over this next summer to our biotech companies with funding from GO Virginia. We’re also putting together a young professionals network to create a “virtual watercooler” to let people know what’s happening in Virginia. The third aim of Virginia Bio-Connect is to accelerate commercialization. We’re doing that by hiring life sciences mentors — or entrepreneurs-in-residence, as most people would know them — to be available virtually across the state for our small companies. El Koubi: You’ve had a very interesting career with a wide range of experience. You’re a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and you served our country with distinction as an Air Force

All that enabled me to step in and help guide the industry on the upward and positive trajectory it was already on, anticipating it will continue to go even higher. El Koubi: You had been on the job for less than a year when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. How did that major upheaval affect the work you’re doing? Newby: I arrived in August 2019, and the pandemic hit a handful of months later, just as I was getting my sea legs underneath me. Similar to other associations, the most obvious direct effect was we couldn’t meet in person anymore. All of our events had to go virtual, which we did successfully. The most important thing is it made our work more urgent. We had, and still have, lots of companies doing great things in the fight against the pandemic. Communication became a focus of Virginia Bio over the past 18–24 months, primarily to let the world know what we’re doing.



We had great companies involved in testing, vaccine development, therapeutics, and diagnostics. We even had companies who made strategic switches away from their core competencies to develop PPE to meet those needs. We had to let the world know all this, so we really switched our focus to the communications piece. One thing the pandemic actually helped us with is advocacy. Prior to the pandemic, if you were not physically in a legislator’s office in D.C., communicating with policymakers was a little difficult. The pandemic gave us the opportunity throughout the past several months to have virtual town halls with our congressional delegation and several state legislators, putting them in direct contact with our members. It’s something we hadn’t been able to do before. The pandemic has really shone a positive light on what we do as a biotech industry, not just in Virginia, but nationwide. It’s not hyperbole to say that the life sciences and biotech industry is saving the world right now. But for the great advancements in vaccines and therapeutics, we would be in a much different place. The pandemic was challenging in Virginia, as it was everywhere else. But for our industry, it helped us get the word out about the good things that science can do for people. El Koubi: The pharmaceutical manufacturing cluster in the Richmond and Petersburg regions has been a highprofile success for Virginia. What do you think the impact of these companies will be in how the life sciences develop across the Commonwealth? Newby: The pandemic has highlighted America’s dependence upon foreign countries for its active pharmaceutical


ingredients and for PPE supplies. This new cluster led by Phlow and AMPAC and Civica Rx is truly the start of the reshoring of domestic manufacturing capability here in America for pharmaceutical products. It’s already positively affected the Virginia ecosystem by attracting a couple of startup companies that have partnered with that team down in Petersburg. We anticipate many more companies in related activities to be drawn to Virginia because of what they’re doing. When you get a $300 million-plus BARDA grant with the potential of being upwards of $800 million to start something in America that isn’t being done right now, it attracts a lot of attention and everyone benefits from it. El Koubi: Taking a step back on all the activity here, what do you see as the attributes that make Virginia a strong location for life sciences companies? Newby: Virginia is in a lot of regional partnerships. The BioHealth Capital Region is one — that’s a partnership between D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. The Southeast Life Sciences partnership among seven southeastern states is another. I think the attribute that I’ve learned over the past couple years that makes Virginia a strong location for life sciences activity is, quite frankly, we’re not Boston. We’re not San Francisco. We’re not New York. We have the assets, but what we don’t have is the expense. We have the talent from our universities for workforce. We have research universities that can support companies as they try to solve real problems for public health. We have proximity to the FDA, NIH, CDC, and all the other important agencies in this space.


We have lab space and are building more, where Maryland is pretty much at capacity. It’s attractive to come to Virginia because, A, we have lab space, and B, it’s much cheaper than even Maryland, and definitely much cheaper than farther up north in Massachusetts or New York. We have a lot of great assets for healthcare IT. I don’t need to tell you about the great technological assets in Northern Virginia — Data Center Alley, the core of the world’s internet. That computing power is a huge asset to growing healthcare IT and healthcare AI in Virginia. Finally, Virginia has the presence of strategics — GSK Consumer Healthcare, Merck and their plant in Elkton. We have a lot to offer to small companies, to strategics, and to new companies looking for a place to call home. What we don’t have that some people consider a negative is the density of a Boston or somewhere like that. I view that as a positive, but we can overcome that objection through programs like Virginia Bio-Connect, which is more closely stitching together the ecosystem so we can find opportunities to pursue jointly. El Koubi: You mentioned several things that make Virginia a strong location for life sciences. Are there any things you’d want to add to that, that folks outside Virginia, or even in Virginia, may not know about — little hidden gems or just points that deserve more attention? Newby: The most active part of our biotech ecosystem is in the medical device space. We have great companies doing great things there — Cadence in Staunton, Caretaker Medical in Charlottesville, who provides remote monitoring of vitals, which has, of course, increased in importance during the

pandemic. ivWatch of Newport News, who was in the business of IV filtration, actually went into the realm of providing PPE in the form of N95 masks.

It’s not hyperbole to say that the life sciences and biotech industry is saving the world right now. But for the great advancements in vaccines and therapeutics, we would be in a much different place. JOHN NEWBY CEO, Virginia Bio

Virginia has the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus in Ashburn. It attracts the world’s best scientists and gives them space, time, and resources to attack important science questions, particularly with respect to neuroscience and also cellular structures. They focus on this basic research, but lots of money being put into it makes its way out into Virginia and into the nation when it comes to neuroscience advancements. El Koubi: You and I both love visiting the different regions around the Commonwealth. There’s so much here to see. It’s such a beautiful state with great quality of life. Is there a favorite place or two you like to visit or spend time? Newby: My family is from Virginia, so I have familial ties here, historical ties. I’ve been back since 2020, and I don’t think I’m going anywhere anytime soon. I really love this Commonwealth. In my last job, I had 40 locations across the state that took me from Wise to Bristol, and all the way over to Accomack on the Eastern Shore. But one place I’ve fallen in love with — I truly adore Staunton. It’s a nice little college town. It’s got the Stonewall Jackson Hotel, which is now Hotel 24 South. That’s right next door to the American Shakespeare Center — the world’s only full-scale recreation of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. I know this is not the beach. It’s not the mountains. It’s not the things you typically hear, but that’s my spot.

For the full interview, visit


Thriving Life Sciences Industry Ecosystem Illustrative Examples



A S U P P LY CHAIN REACTION Richmond and Petersburg host a new pharmaceutical cluster making essential medicines with innovative techniques


he COVID-19 pandemic has brought shortages of all kinds to the U.S. economy, from cream cheese and toilet paper to N95 masks and consumer electronics. The supply chain went from a machine working in the background to a catch-all issue. Stores can’t restock fast enough? It’s the supply chain. Will delivery take six weeks? Supply chain. Most critically, in the middle of a public health emergency, a long-simmering problem was exposed: The U.S. supply of essential medicines is unreliable. Pharmaceutical supply chains are complicated. The details may vary greatly from one medicine to the next, but a single medication could start as raw materials from several countries around the world, which are processed into basic chemicals. These are then turned into active and inactive ingredients, possibly with dozens of distributors or manufacturers, before everything is finally combined into a medicine


that’s ready to be administered to patients. There could be a hundred steps in total, and many of them often take place outside the United States. Each of these steps offers a chance for an interruption, whether a shipment is blocked by a natural disaster, a labor shortage, or for geopolitical reasons. The pharmaceutical supply chain was affected by the pandemic in many ways as lockdowns gripped shipping centers and governments reserved medicines for their own citizens. To address the insecurity, a new pharmaceutical research and manufacturing hub is growing, anchored by the Virginia cities of Richmond and Petersburg. The cluster began with the Medicines for All Institute (M4ALL) at Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) College of Engineering, which develops more efficient manufacturing processes to provide lower-cost medicinal ingredients, and the public benefit corporation Phlow Corp., which was founded in early 2020 to reduce shortages of essential medicines — high-priority drugs with a great benefit to the population. Commercial manufacturing comes from nonprofit generic drug producer Civica Inc., which was formed in 2018 to provide a reliable supply of high-quality, affordable essential medicines to healthcare systems, and AMPAC Fine Chemicals (AFC), which produces pharmaceutical intermediates and active ingredients. Also included in the cluster is the nonprofit medicinal standards organization United States Pharmacopeia (USP). Together, these organizations form a streamlined system, capable of developing and implementing new ways of making high-quality, cost-effective medicine, with as much of that process in the United States as possible. Although the coalition is composed of likeminded organizations already addressing generic drug reliability and pricing, much of the new development is in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic and in anticipation of future needs. Last year, Phlow secured a $354 million contract from the Biomedical Advanced Research and

Development Authority, a federal agency dedicated to preparedness for public health emergencies under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The coalition is contributing to the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) of essential medicines, and Phlow is starting the first Strategic Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient Reserve (SAPIR) to provide a long-term supply of the key ingredients used to manufacture the most essential medicines on U.S. soil. The contract could be worth up to $812 million in total. Phlow has also helped launch the Children’s Hospital Coalition, a partnership with several children’s hospitals, in an effort to ensure the availability of essential medicines to improve the care of America’s children. “Our country has an opportunity to completely reimagine our supply chain through novel chemistry, optimizing small-molecule manufacturing to improve yields, drive down costs, and reduce our environmental impact,” said Dr. Eric Edwards, co-founder, president, and CEO of Phlow. As Martin VanTrieste, president and CEO of Civica and a member of Phlow’s board of directors, put it: “We’re trying to take links out and make [the supply chain] simpler, so that there’s less opportunity for failure.” To facilitate collaboration, Phlow and USP are building adjoining lab spaces in downtown Richmond’s VA Bio+Tech Park, close to M4ALL at VCU. In Petersburg, 30 minutes south down Interstate 95, Phlow and Civica are forming an advanced manufacturing campus at a site where AFC has been in production since 2017.

A CONTINUOUS PROCESS Making medicines in the U.S. at competitive prices requires finding new ways of producing them. How are those price reductions possible without a drop in quality? “It starts with the chemistry,” said M4ALL CEO Dr. Frank Gupton. “If we have robust, high-yield chemical processes, then we can do a lot of things with the downstream steps and greatly simplify the processes.”



Gupton is involved in many parts of the integration of the Richmond-Petersburg group. As the chair of VCU’s Life Sciences and Chemical Engineering department, he is helping train a potential workforce at the intersection of chemistry and chemical engineering. At M4ALL, which he helped found in 2017, he has a hand in the development of new continuous manufacturing processes. And as a co-founder of Phlow, he is able to see some of that research implemented in a practical way.

Continuous manufacturing is at an inflection point. We see increasing interest in the technology, and COVID-19’s disruption of the supply chain may be accelerating that pivot. DENNIS HALL Vice President of Manufacturing Services, United States Pharmacopeia

Continuous processes are largely automated. In addition to reducing overall costs, they produce a more consistent product, Gupton said. In contrast to batch processing, which is much more common across the global pharmaceutical industry, continuous processes require an investment of time and money upfront to develop, but they can offer significant savings in the long run. AFC had an extensive history applying continuous processes in the aerospace industry before shifting its focus to pharmaceuticals. “There’s a lot of pharma companies that don’t implement this manufacturing, mostly because they’re more interested in speed,” said Dr. Bill DuBay, vice president of global research and development at SK pharmteco, AFC’s parent company. “It takes longer to get ready for manufacturing of a continuous process.” AFC will produce the active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) that go into Civica medicines, as well as those set aside for the SAPIR. Stockpiling API rather than finished medicines has two main advantages, DuBay said. Many drugs can have different deliverable forms, which API can be converted into relatively quickly, so the API are a bit more flexible. API also tend to have longer shelf lives than the ready-to-use formulations, possibly avoiding the waste that occurs when medication goes unused. USP will help Phlow develop the standards for new production methods, as well as help test that they’re consistently producing medicines within strict



margins of quality control. The hope is to apply lessons learned in Virginia to similar continuous processes around the world, which USP sees as a new paradigm in pharmaceuticals. “Continuous manufacturing is at an inflection point,” said Dennis Hall, vice president of manufacturing services at USP. “We see increasing interest in the technology, and COVID-19’s disruption of the supply chain may be accelerating that pivot.” Civica has similarly embraced continuous manufacturing and emphasis on a robust supply chain as cornerstones of its business model. In the early days of the pandemic, Civica was able to meet surge demand of up to 400% for some of the 11 COVID-19 medications it produced, and the company also produced 2.1 million vials of COVID-19 medications for the SNS. At the Petersburg facility — the company’s first in-house manufacturing operation — Civica will produce sterile, injectable medications used in hospitals for COVID-19 patient care, emergency room and intensive care treatments, surgeries, and treatment of other serious conditions.

RESHORING TO VIRGINIA U.S. operations will better insulate the U.S. supply chain against any kind of turmoil, even if they’re partially redundant with imported medicines in times when there’s no pandemic restricting trade or suppliers. The Richmond-Petersburg cluster aims to be that sort of end-to-end process, going from raw materials to API and finished medicines entirely within the country. And there’s a parallel movement to create or revive domestic sources of key raw materials, said DuBay. Most common inactive materials such as salts and solvents are typically available from domestic manufacturers. Much of the new construction and improvements in both Richmond and Petersburg is already underway and should be complete in the second half of 2022 or early 2023. Civica production will begin

in earnest toward the end of 2023, after the year it’s expected to take regulatory agencies to review and approve its Petersburg processes and products. Phlow’s construction is underway next door. Between constructing and adapting new facilities and ongoing operations, the cluster will create hundreds of jobs. “The infrastructure that we’re creating in the Richmond-Petersburg region today will help provide access to essential medicines for all Americans tomorrow,” Edwards said. “Phlow and the worldclass partners gathering here are committed to growing an advanced manufacturing campus that attracts highly technical jobs and economic development opportunities while impacting the health of our nation.” VanTrieste highlighted several benefits to doing business in Virginia, including the centralized Mid-Atlantic location with highway and port access, quality workforce and educational institutions, high quality of life, and a business-friendly atmosphere. “This is not going to be the only cluster, but it’s going to be a really exciting one,” said Hall. “The excitement and dedication I’ve seen from [the members of the cluster] is important. There’s this great desire to build this into something truly impactful for the region and the country.” The cluster will supply the SNS and the newly created SAPIR, but its members could also change an industry that is not well suited to the vagaries of material and ingredient availability. When the next pandemic hits, a cache of critical medicines will ensure that spikes in demand are met, while a carefully planned, largely domestic pharmaceutical supply chain adapts to shifting needs. More broadly, these sorts of production improvements could apply to a wide range of essential medicines, creating an affordable, reliable, quality supply.



Virginia, along with Maryland and Washington, D.C, is located in the BioHealth Capital Region, the fourth-ranked U.S. biopharma cluster, according to Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News. Within the Commonwealth, there are pockets of innovation where companies are capitalizing on local and regional synergies to build and grow industry clusters in several areas of the state. Read on to learn more about these clusters and Virginia’s culture of innovation, entrepreneurship, and collaboration in the life sciences.


Buoyed by Collaboration and Investment, Northern Virginia Life Sciences Companies Explore the Cutting Edge


orthern Virginia’s advantages in attracting talent are well known, from best-in-class public schools, to vibrant communities, to the attractions and sights of Washington, D.C. Now, years of collaboration and investment by academia, industry, and local and state governments have begun to yield a bumper crop of life sciences startups and attract an influx of quickly expanding companies. “In the past, there wasn’t much support for our industry in Northern Virginia,” said Ross Dunlap, CEO of Ceres Nanosciences, Inc., based in Prince William County. “But in the last few years, a lot of investment has gone into building life sciences infrastructure, and it’s been done very well.” Ceres has been a direct beneficiary of that investment. The brainchild of scientists at

George Mason University (GMU), Ceres started with the goal of detecting cancer earlier. But its founders soon realized that its technology — novel particles to capture specific biomarkers of disease — had broader applications. Ceres is now at the forefront of pandemic science, offering cutting-edge diagnostic technology for COVID-19, with plans to nearly double employment in the next two years. Ceres is located in Innovation Park, a corporate research park anchored by GMU’s Science and Technology Campus. GMU, an R1 research institution, is playing a central role in performing groundbreaking research, educating a diverse workforce, and providing access to the intellectual capital, networks, and research facilities critical for innovation in the sector. Also located in Innovation Park is American Type Culture Collection, a global biological resource center, and facilities that support bioscience startups, like the Prince William Science Accelerator.

Granules Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Fairfax County

HELPING COMPANIES GET OFF THE GROUND Ceres was among the inaugural class of startups at the Prince William Science Accelerator and the first “graduate” of the facility, moving to its own facility in 2018. The accelerator, created by Prince William County in 2014, is a startup incubator for biotech and life sciences companies, offering nine unique wet lab spaces in the 10,000-square-foot facility. That accelerator, geared toward earlystage companies, is currently full. But the Northern Virginia Bioscience Center, a 30,000-square-foot facility with wet labs, is approaching completion. It’s being developed in a public-private partnership and is designed for companies moving


beyond the startup phase. As of December 2021, half the space was preleased.

to woo workers who live out of state, the pitch is easy.

“We’re seeing investment in commercial lab space,” said Amy Adams, executive director of the Institute for Biohealth Innovation at GMU, “and there is room to grow.”

“I always tell people that quality of life is better in Northern Virginia,” said Vijay Ramanavarapu, the company’s president. “The schools are excellent, and infrastructure is solid here. It’s a pleasant place to live, as well. You can have big-city amenities, but you can also have outdoor amenities.”

Northern Virginia’s burgeoning commercial appeal has also attracted a diverse array of companies, such as Fairfax County’s Vibrent Health, developers of the platform used by the National Institutes of Health in its “All of Us” research program to collect and study health data from Americans to speed research discoveries and enable more individualized health care. Another is Granules Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a wholly owned, U.S.-based subsidiary of Granules India that employs more than 130 people to manufacture drugs for heart arrhythmia and other conditions, and is looking to hire up to 40 more workers by spring 2022. The company first set up shop in Fairfax County in 2014, with a 50,000-square-foot facility that included manufacturing, warehouse, and administrative space. While a large chunk of the company’s business comes from manufacturing common drugs, the Fairfax facility is home to the company’s drug research and development operation. The company has since doubled its footprint at that location. When it’s time


POWERED BY COLLABORATION “The Northern Virginia life sciences community embodies a collaborative spirit, with everyone committed to creating an ecosystem where companies can thrive,” Adams said. “We’re seeing our localities working together, and county-level programs to attract, retain, and grow life sciences businesses.” GMU launched the Institute for Biohealth Innovation in 2016, which serves as the front door for industry, healthcare, and others to easily connect with their faculty and student researchers. To further support the growing life sciences ecosystem, the NOVA BioHub — modeled after the successful CvilleBioHub in Charlottesville — is being created to unite and support the business, academic, and healthcare community. Another leader of research and innovation is the Janelia Research Campus in Loudoun County. Janelia is


Once we develop something, we want to use it and move on to the next thing. There’s always an opportunity here. MIKE PERHAM Director of Innovation and External Relations, Janelia Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

an arm of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), a nonprofit research organization and philanthropy in nearby Chevy Chase, Md.

field trips to the Janelia campus. In 2019, before the pandemic limited interactions, campus scientists did 1,400 hours of community outreach, Perham said.

Janelia offers scientists early in their careers opportunities to dive into research without worrying about funding, which is fully supplied by HHMI. The campus has historically focused its research at the cutting edge of neuroscience, said Mike Perham, Janelia’s director of innovation and external relations.

“We want to get scientists out there who kids can relate to,” he said. “I think that’s one of the most impactful things we do.”

Janelia is continually looking for companies that provide ancillary services for its research and offer support on research devices. For instance, Janelia scientists invented a number of versions of a fluorescent synthetic dye because they needed it for research. The campus has since licensed out some of the simpler versions of the dye to companies in the United States and abroad, Perham said, but is looking for local partnerships to manufacture research tools like the dyes. “Once we develop something, we want to use it and move on to the next thing,” he said. “There’s always an opportunity here.” The Janelia campus is also deeply involved with Loudoun County Public Schools, offering STEM curriculum for K-12 students that includes in-school activities and presentations, after-school programs, and

Ramanavarapu mentions stellar schools, infrastructure, and a balance of big-city amenities with outdoor activities when trying to attract new hires, and Dunlap echoes that praise. The amenities the region has to offer have made it easy for Ceres to attract new employees — often right out of school — and retain them once they join. Compared to other life sciences hubs like Silicon Valley or Boston, the area is affordable — for both companies like Ceres and the people it hires. “Northern Virginia,” he said, “is a great place to locate.”

From Incubation to Collaboration Universities, VA Bio+Tech Park draw investment to Richmond


or communities seeking to recreate the success of wellknown life sciences clusters in Boston, San Diego, and the San Francisco Bay Area, Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News suggests there’s a straightforward formula to replicate. It begins with proximity to world-class research science centers and adds in access to talent and funding, a strong quality of life, available and adaptable lab and office space, and an entrepreneurial environment. This formula might just explain the bioscience boom in Richmond and Petersburg. “There is a significant talent pool already located in the area from which startup companies can pull,” said Chandra Briggman, president and CEO of Activation Capital, the nonprofit behind the VA Bio+Tech Park in downtown Richmond. “In addition to the talent located here, over $300 million has been invested in bioscience firms in the region

Aditxt, Inc., Richmond

since 2010, and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) has more than $360 million in sponsored funding directed to its research. Our location also is a huge advantage, as Richmond is within two hours of key federal agencies.” The VA Bio+Tech Park is doing its part to give entrepreneurs in Richmond space to grow. The 34-acre life sciences community is itself home to nearly 70 companies, as well as a life sciences and advanced technology incubator, the Bio+Tech Center. The center provides below-market-rate office and lab space and support resources, including shared equipment, discounted services, programming, and a community of life sciences professionals with whom to connect.

HELPING STARTUPS BECOME SUSTAINABLE Pharmaceutical company Kaléo traces its roots to a 2004 project

within the incubator. Today, the company manufacturers the AUVI-Q® (epinephrine injection) auto-injector, but its current success was grounded in startup support. “Our founders received the help and support they needed to obtain capital investment, develop our intellectual property, recruit key talent, and achieve FDA approval and commercial launch for our products,” said CEO Ron Gunn. Being in a community with other life sciences companies that have progressed through startup growing pains to become leaders in their field carries a tremendous amount of value. “Collocation allows for collisions and knowledge-sharing amongst peers and also people in industry sectors you may not otherwise come into contact with on a regular basis,” Briggman said. “Being collocated with academia, government labs, private companies, and the health system allows for collaboration and innovation.”



Across organizations in Richmond, this collaboration seems particularly impactful. As Gunn put it, the region is home to a “strong collaborative spirit among the colleges and universities, and the bioscience community creates an environmental mindset that is rich with innovation and entrepreneurial spirit.” “It’s very much a ‘rising tide lifts all ships’ mentality here,” said Dr. Elaine Horn-Ranney, co-founder and CEO of medical device company Tympanogen, Inc., in Richmond. “The people here were collaborative and supportive as we were going through those early growing pains of the company.” Horn-Ranney launched Tympanogen in 2014 to develop gel patch solutions that can, among other things, transform hours-long eardrum repair surgeries into brief office visits. Horn-Ranney said the company’s location and her membership

within the Richmond-based Virginia Biotechnology Association, where she serves on the board, have provided access to a close community of technology professionals facing many of the same challenges.

COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS Access to VCU’s Life Sciences resources also helps. The VCU Life Sciences program was created in response to the need to prepare students for anticipated growth in new life sciences jobs that require highly interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary approaches, compared to traditional medical or scientific fields. VCU’s pharmaceutical engineering doctoral program, launched in 2020, is the first of its kind in the country. VCU Life Sciences is home to the Center for Biological Data Science, which is helping drive research around bioinformatics, genomics, proteomics, and computational

systems biology, as well as the Center for Integrative Life Sciences Education, which encourages student research across multiple disciplines. These centers bring together a host of expertise that also spans the Bio+Tech Park and the adjacent VCU Medical Center, while VCU and the region’s other colleges and universities provide a sustainable talent pool. Finding and training employees to meet the specialized needs of a life sciences company takes time and money, but Virginia startups have resources available to defray those costs. When California-based Aditxt, Inc., opened its AditxtScore™ Center, the first phase of its $31.5 million Richmond investment, it did so with support from VEDP’s Virginia Talent Accelerator Program. This high-capacity, Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments-certified immune monitoring center aims to scale

Collocation allows for collisions and knowledge-sharing amongst peers and also people in industry sectors you may not otherwise come into contact with on a regular basis. Being collocated with academia, government labs, private companies, and the health system allows for collaboration and innovation. CHANDRA BRIGGMAN President and CEO, Activation Capital


It’s very much a ‘rising tide lifts all ships’ mentality here. The people here were collaborative and supportive as we were going through those early growing pains of the company. DR. ELAINE HORN-RANNEY Co-Founder and CEO, Tympanogen, Inc.

up to process a projected 10 million immune system reports. That requires skilled individuals who can process the reports that help individuals decode their immune profiles. The company plans to create more than 300 new jobs over the next three years to meet demand. The Virginia Talent Accelerator Program, delivered in partnership with the Virginia Community College System, provides job-specific training services customized for the company’s unique needs, as well as recruiting support. Aditxt CEO Amro Albanna cites this combination of “skilled workforce, location, and infrastructure” as the reason that Richmond presented an ideal location for the company’s first high-capacity AditxtScoreTM Center. The Richmond location for Pharmaceutical Product Development, LLC (PPD) — now part of Thermo Fisher’s Laboratory Products and

Services Segment — has also benefited from the wealth of talent available from local universities. The global contract research organization has an associate group leader serving among the Employer Advisory Board members guiding VCU Career Services in strengthening relationships between employers and the university. Richmond and nearby Petersburg are home to an emerging pharmaceutical cluster surrounding the VCU-based Medicines for All Institute aimed at reducing shortages of essential medicines in the United States (see page 18). The host of expansions happening across the Richmond area today will only serve to strengthen the infrastructure available. As Horn-Ranney puts it, “As a whole, the state is on a very good pathway to being a major presence in the biotech and healthcare space.”

UVA Supports Expanding Life Sciences Industry in Charlottesville K

imberly Kelly was a biomedical engineer at the University of Virginia (UVA), working on ways to diagnose pancreatic cancer, when she discovered a protein expressed by the cancer cells. She found she could detect this cancer-specific plectin with imaging, so she applied for a financial award to get the detection technology from theory to realization. Kelly won the award, left the university, and sought out the support of the Charlottesville life sciences community as she began her own company. “Charlottesville is really up and coming because we have that confluence of good living conditions, access to really good people, and the knowledge of people who have been there, done that, and are willing to help. Charlottesville is a very collaborative environment,” she said. In 2016, she launched a business, pivoted, renamed the company ZielBio, Inc., and focused on developing an antibody that blocks the protein, preventing it from dividing and metastasizing. In preclinical experiments, ZielBio’s monoclonal antibiodies target and kill cancer cells and


prompt immune cells to destroy tumors. Targeting cancers with this protein would ideally lead to better outcomes in cancer patients. In January, the company began clinical trials of the antibodies.

KEYS TO SUCCESS Life sciences companies like Kelly’s contribute $8 billion to the Virginia economy, according to Virginia Bio, a nonprofit trade association that represents the life sciences in the Commonwealth. In Charlottesville, ZielBio is one of more than 75 biotechnology companies that now operate in Central Virginia. Entrepreneurs, many of them scientists, have begun companies in a number of sectors, including therapeutics, devices and instrumentation, and health and technology, resulting in nearly 2,000 jobs in the Charlottesville area. Companies that help diabetics (TypeZero Technologies, LLC), create treatments for rare metabolic disorders (HemoShear Therapeutics, Inc.), and manufacture sterile, injectable drugs (Afton Scientific, LLC) are thriving in the city, thanks to a close relationship with UVA and a growing cadre of entrepreneurs who

collaborate through CvilleBioHub, an industry-led nonprofit that supports the area’s biotechnology community. Success stories include the Focused Ultrasound Foundation, devoted to accelerating the development and adoption of focused ultrasound technology to better treat medical disorders, and AgroSpheres, Inc., which is developing bio-based solutions for crop protection to lessen reliance on chemical pesticides.

ZielBio, Inc., Charlottesville

The talent and growth of the industry have also attracted investors. Charlottesville now has three early-stage investor groups, the Charlottesville Angel Network (CAN), CAV Angels, and the University of Virginia Licensing & Venture Group Seed Fund (UVA LVG Seed Fund), which invests in concepts developed by researchers at the university and contributed $276.1 million to 27 companies between 2010 and 2019.

A PIPELINE THROUGH UVA Much of the industry’s success wouldn’t be possible without the talent that comes out of UVA, which has developed various ways to support researchers. The university is a strong engine of research,

Charlottesville is really up and coming because we have that confluence of good living conditions, access to really good people, and the knowledge of people who have been there, done that, and are willing to help. Charlottesville is a very collaborative environment. KIMBERLY KELLY CEO, ZielBio, Inc.


says Pace Lochte, UVA’s assistant vice president for economic development. Last year, the university brought in $437 million for research, a 40% increase from the $311 million in funds received by the school seven years ago. About half of that comes from National Institutes of Health grants. “Our role is to make the commitment and be a catalyst for others to come in and join our financing,” says Bob Creeden, managing director of UVA LVG Seed Fund & New Ventures. “It really does allow the university to push technology out into the marketplace.” One of those companies was BrightSpec, a business built around technology created by UVA chemist Brooks Pate. The company, founded in 2012, developed a new method of spectroscopy to quickly analyze the efficacy of pharmaceuticals and detect trace amounts of potentially harmful chemicals using digital tools. Another was TypeZero, which focuses on technology that helps diabetics manage their insulin. A closed-loop system consisting of a blood glucose sensor and an insulin pump — an idea originally

developed 15 years ago by UVA scientist Boris Kovatchev — functions as an artificial pancreas to automatically adjust the amount of insulin a patient needs, releasing him or her from the burden of constant finger pricks to check glucose levels. In 2018, the company was sold to DexCom, which opened an office in Charlottesville and dramatically expanded the number of people who could use the technology, which now helps 300,000 patients.

HELP FROM A SUPPORT NETWORK The life sciences community is further connected by CvilleBioHub, which brings entrepreneurs and early-stage companies together, helps researchers develop ideas, and provides educational opportunities about the industry in Charlottesville. In 2016, local biotech executives Martin Chapman, Taylor Cope, Nikki Hastings, and Susan Klees began the group as they saw the industry expanding. “It seemed to me that if we got together, collaborated, and understood the community more,” said Klees, who now works at HemoShear Therapeutics, “we might be able to better serve them, and help them grow and flourish.”

Our role is to make the commitment and be a catalyst for others to come in and join our financing. It really does allow the university to push technology out into the marketplace. BOB CREEDEN Managing Director, University of Virginia LVG Seed Fund & New Ventures



[The University of Virginia] is a driver and an intellectual horsepower for the new ideas that are percolating in our community. STEPH OETTINGER Executive Director, CvilleBioHub

Roughly 50% of area life sciences companies are launched as a result of spinout ideas and technologies at UVA, says executive director Steph Oettinger: “The university is a driver and an intellectual horsepower for the new ideas that are percolating in our community.” Two years ago, the organization also received a grant from GO Virginia, a state economic development initiative, which helped it fund an entrepreneurin-residence program. To date, that program has served more than 30 companies and resulted in the creation of six more. CvilleBioHub hopes to double the size of the industry in the region by 2030. In 2020, GO Virginia approved a grant to help fund similar organizations across the Commonwealth, in part because of the successful model developed by CvilleBioHub. “Strong partnerships like those between UVA, CvilleBioHub, and others contribute to an exceptionally supportive environment,” Lochte said. “The success of our biotech sector is wholly dependent on the unique contributions and collaborative spirit of the many dedicated organizations and individuals within the ecosystem.”

Partnerships Fuel Growth in Roanoke, Blacksburg Virginia Tech, Carilion drive research into innovative medical technologies


uring the COVID-19 pandemic, Virginia Tech’s Rob Gourdie was busy investigating how to deliver medications more effectively. Gourdie, the director of the Center for Vascular and Heart Research at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC (FBRI) in Roanoke, had found that exosomes, tiny spheres found in cow’s milk, could be used to deliver therapeutic molecules to specific areas of the body. Based on the findings, he founded the Tiny Cargo Company, but the lab had to find a way to purify the exosomes, so they worked with local Homestead Creamery and created a multistep process, publishing their results last year.


The discovery advances the pharmaceutical potential of exosomes. Tiny Cargo recently won a Johnson & Johnson-sponsored award based on the research, and the resulting $50,000 will help advance the science while allowing executives access to mentorship and business acumen through the Johnson & Johnson Innovation — JLABS @ Washington D.C. program. Gourdie is one of several researchers at FBRI who develop drugs and other therapeutic approaches, novel ways to deliver them, and improved diagnostic tools. When researchers discover an idea with the potential to improve health, university scientists and engineers

find support through a program called LINK + LICENSE + LAUNCH to help them found companies and develop partnerships. In 2021, FBRI researchers were awarded $140 million in active research grants and contracts. “What many of us would like to do is change the world for the better and actually see these discoveries help people’s lives. Because of that, Virginia Tech embraces both high-quality scholarship and entrepreneurship. It encourages, rewards, and recognizes them,” said FBRI Executive Director Michael Friedlander. “We’ve really only in the last decade made substantial moves and major investments in growth in the biomedical and health science research space. We have come a long way in a short period, but have only just begun.”

TECH DEVELOPMENT Companies founded by Virginia Tech researchers demonstrate the value of the life sciences discoveries supported by the university. In addition to Tiny Cargo, the university recently helped another FBRI-based molecular biologist, Samy Lamouille, form Acomhal Research, Inc., which targets cancer cells that resist traditional chemotherapy. FBRI researchers also formed a relationship with a leading technology company in Israel, Insightec, to make focused ultrasound compatible with the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology platform from Siemens Healthineers, the international medical imaging company. FBRI plans to double in size by 2027 as its scientists and engineers develop their ideas. “They publish their papers, they get research grants, they teach — they do

all the things you’d expect a university professor to do, and do it very well,” Friedlander said. “But many of them also have a very strong entrepreneurial spirit to take their innovations out of the lab and into real-world application, beyond the academic enterprise.” Researchers who have recently created companies or who are interested in founding them benefit not only from support from FBRI, but also from the partnership between Virginia Tech and nearby Carilion Clinic. Companies in their early stages that show promise also have access to funding through VTC Ventures, an investment firm formed nearly five years ago by Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic and managed by Middleland Capital. The private venture capital fund provides financing through its VTC Seed Fund and VTC Innovation Fund, which provide Series A and B funding to startups. Together, the relationships are helping biomedical companies thrive in and around Roanoke and Blacksburg. “What is critical for success, when it comes to developing novel therapies for patients, new medical devices, or diagnostic tests, is when you have a strong collaboration between academia, industry, and the clinic,” Lamouille said.

DEVELOPING IDEAS Virginia Tech further deepened its collaboration with Carilion Clinic last year when the nonprofit healthcare system developed an accelerator. Called Carilion Innovation, the new group helps researchers and medical professionals with an idea for a device develop their concepts by offering up to $5,000 to create

a low-fidelity prototype in what the group calls the “workshop.” Last year, the group gave out $75,000 in grants to medical professionals, helped them test their ideas and vet them with other professionals, starting the researchers down the path of developing those innovations further. When an instrument shows that it could provide benefits to patients, VTC Ventures comes in to provide funding. Between the seed and innovation funds offered by the venture capital group, a startup can receive up to $2.5 million. “The companies are still maturing, and we continue to invest in them,” says James Ramey, managing director and fund manager at VTC Ventures, which has invested in more than two dozen companies so far. “But our goal is to be long-term, multistage investors to fund our companies throughout their life cycle.” Virginia Tech researchers can develop devices on their own before introducing their ideas to Carilion Innovation and receiving support for further development. The relationship is mutually beneficial: Healthcare workers can also connect with Virginia Tech researchers to develop more detailed engineering in their designs.

COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS Having academic and medical facilities, along with a network of companies nearby, also allows for a pipeline of talent, says Tom Piccariello, whose company, Synthonics, Inc., makes drug delivery more efficient using metals. His company operates out of the Virginia Tech

Corporate Research Center (VTCRC) in Blacksburg, home to a number of research companies. Many area companies, including Tiny Cargo and Acomhal Research, have benefited from the RAMP regional accelerator in Roanoke, which supports western Virginia STEM startups. “A lot of young people at the university recognize companies as being potential collaborators, so it’s very easy for companies here to find people at Virginia Tech to collaborate with,” Piccariello said. Virginia Tech and FBRI are expanding in other ways, too. Johnson & Johnson Innovation announced in December that it is partnering with the VTCRC to provide mentoring, programming, and resources with funding from GO Virginia. In conjunction with the VTCRC, JLABS will select five companies to participate in its virtual residency program. The announcement comes on the heels of the soft opening of the Children’s National Research & Innovation Campus, where Virginia Tech, Children’s National Hospital, and JLABS have forged a first-of-its-kind partnership to advance children’s health and cancer research. “We contribute to an ecosystem that makes a healthier, more successful academic health center,” said Friedlander. “That’s better for the university, the clinic, and it’s better for the physical, mental, and economic health of the entire region in the long run. It’s a virtuous cycle, and there’s a lot of good to come for all of it.”


Research Partnerships and Treatment Breakthroughs in Hampton Roads


he highly transmissible omicron variant of the novel coronavirus upended perceptions about proper mitigation. People who had been wearing fabric masks began switching over to N95 and KN95 respirators, leading to greater demand for respirators. These respirators get their name from their effectiveness — to earn the N95 classification, a respirator must filter at least 95% of airborne particles, as assessed by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).


Just 52 companies worldwide have received NIOSH approval to make surgical N95 respirators. One of them is ivWatch, LLC, based in Newport News. ivWatch, which manufactures continuous monitoring systems for early detection of infiltrations during intravenous therapy, added respirators to its repertoire after President and CEO Gary Warren took note of the early-pandemic shortage of personal protective equipment and realized that his company’s equipment, with a few tweaks, could also be used to manufacture high-quality respirators. The

company received approval for its masks late last year and is scaling up production. ivWatch is just one of the companies that make up a robust life sciences industry in the Hampton Roads region. Rich in research activity, the region is home to Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) — where Elizabeth Carr became the first American baby born after being conceived through in vitro fertilization in 1981 — and nonprofit industry leaders such as Operation Smile, which performs free cleft lip and palate repair surgeries around the world, and LifeNet Health, which improves transplant procedures. LifeNet Health recently completed an expansion of its global headquarters in Virginia Beach and launched its new LifeSciences division to enhance the company’s research. The company has more than 100 global patents for tissue and cell preparation and preservation and is currently building a state-of-the-art tissue processing center with new clean rooms and research facilities. “Virginia has the opportunity to be a magnet of tissue processing and testing,” said LifeNet Health CEO Rony Thomas.

LifeNet’s tissue bank has become even more vital during the pandemic. Its scientists were able to isolate lung cells for use in vaccine and therapeutic development, allowing pharmaceutical companies to see how various compounds affect different types of cells. That’s just one way Hampton Roads companies are helping drive COVID-19 treatment innovation — in addition, Norfolk-based ReAlta Life Sciences received a $3.2 million Virginia Catalyst grant to evaluate its RLS-0071 compound as a treatment for COVID-related acute lung injury.

RESEARCH POWERHOUSES DRIVE MEDICAL BREAKTHROUGHS Other Hampton Roads research centers are affiliated with the area’s major educational institutions, notably EVMS and Old Dominion University (ODU), both of which are partnering with local hospital system Sentara Healthcare to form the Hampton Roads Biomedical Research Consortium (HRBRC). The partnership’s goal is to strengthen the relationship between the institutions and increase collaborative research.

Virginia has the opportunity to be a magnet of tissue processing and testing. RONY THOMAS CEO, LifeNet Health

“The HRBRC embodies what drives and excites me: the challenges of a startup,



the pursuit of health equity, communitybuilding, and working with diverse and talented people,” said Kevin Leslie, the partnership’s executive director. “The foundational pieces of a world-class pipeline are in place. Now we finally have the opportunity to coordinate them in earnest.” Another local university making advancements in life sciences research is Hampton University, home to the Proton Therapy Institute. That facility is now the largest free-standing proton cancer treatment facility in the world. It grew out of Hampton’s medical physics program and the nearby Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, a U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratory anchored by the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility, billed as the world’s most advanced particle accelerator. ODU is home to the Frank Reidy Research Center for Bioelectrics, which conducts interdisciplinary research into the effects of ultra-short pulses and plasma on living matter. John Catravas, a professor at the Reidy Center, and Charlottesville company KeViRx recently received a Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support efficacy testing of a new compound against acute and chronic lung injury caused by COVID-19. Catravas has also received NIH funding to develop antidotes for chemically induced inflammation and chronic lung injury. Andrei Pakhomov, the center’s director, is leading a $7.5 million multi-university Air Force Office of Scientific Research grant aimed at using intense electric pulses for non-invasive deep brain stimulation and tumor ablation, while other research deals with membrane biophysics, cancer treatment, immune stimulation, defibrillation, and decontamination. Reidy Center researchers recently developed a special topical gel using cold plasma technology to more effectively treat chronic wounds and


LifeNet Health, Virginia Beach


prevent infection. The gel works by breaking up the outer layer of serious wounds. This layer is called biofilm, and it can prevent antibiotics from entering a wound while allowing bacteria to go deeper into the tissue. Michael Kong, professor of bioelectrics at the Reidy Center, describes biofilm in serious wounds as similar to a “castle wall” that can prevent treatments from having the desired effect. Biofilm infections affect 17 million Americans each year, according to NIH data, and kill more than half a million people annually. The gel developed by Kong’s team is currently in clinical trials for safety testing.

A REGIONAL EFFORT TO HELP LOCAL RESIDENTS The Hampton Roads region has made a concerted effort to attract life sciences companies, notably through the VABeachBio Accelerator, which is currently accepting applications. The facility sponsors the VABeachBio Innovation Challenge, a competition aimed at solving problems that disproportionately affect veterans. That field has particular relevance in Hampton Roads, home to 15 military installations across all five service branches, more than 90,000 active-duty service members, and nearly 200,000 veterans. The city of Virginia Beach, in particular, is courting startups in areas most relevant to veterans, especially those that deal with traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Other area health facilities are covering similar ground — last year, Naval Medical Center Portsmouth opened a new clinic to treat TBI in active-duty personnel.

The foundational pieces of a world-class pipeline are in place. Now we finally have the opportunity to coordinate them in earnest.

From research aimed at helping local military personnel to contributions to finding ways to end the global COVID-19 pandemic, the region is making breakthroughs with the potential to improve treatment and quality of life around the world.

KEVIN LESLIE Executive Director, Hampton Roads Biomedical Research Consortium


Creative Partnerships Solve Workforce Needs in the

Shenandoah Valley Partnership with JMU, BRCC helps Merck fill need for HPV vaccines


n 2019, Melissa Lubin learned that pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co., Inc., was competing for a billiondollar expansion in Elkton, a town in the Shenandoah Valley. The project would double Merck’s production of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines while adding 100 jobs. If Elkton won the bid, it would represent “the biggest expansion the Shenandoah Valley had ever experienced,” said Lubin, chief economic engagement officer and dean of James Madison University’s (JMU) School of Professional and Continuing Education. Once the Elkton site was selected for expansion, Lubin partnered with Dr. John Downey, president of Blue Ridge Community College (BRCC), and Mike Baliko, director of learning & development at Merck, to create a new internship program for students from both academic institutions to get the training and hands-on experience required to meet

Merck’s workforce needs. Since the start of the partnership, 50 students have completed the internship program. Merck has hired 40 JMU graduates and 35 BRCC graduates into either full-time or contract positions at the Elkton plant. “Our vision has been to establish a partnership and pipeline within our community focused on developing entrylevel biotechnology engineers, automation engineers, and craft talent to proactively accommodate our growth and that of other manufacturers in the Shenandoah Valley,” Baliko said. Lubin and Downey are already thinking of ways to expand the internship program to meet other workforce needs in the region. “We are all benefiting from this — the students, the institutions, and the employers. Everyone’s got a win,” Lubin said.

LEARNING TO SPEAK THE SAME LANGUAGE It’s no secret that industry and academia operate differently. With distinct missions and goals, it can be difficult for these sectors to align, even when they complement one another.

experience, she was perfectly suited to help JMU and BRCC speak the same language as Merck.

“Colleges and universities are always willing to talk with companies and work things out, but then we find the words we use differ from the words used by the company,” Downey said. “All of us try to listen to companies and respond to their needs, but we often don’t get past the first couple of sentences.”

Merck’s biggest need in staffing for the vaccine expansion was automation engineers. These workers ensure the vaccines are manufactured efficiently and seamlessly. They program the machines, execute dry runs and wet runs with water before any product is added in, and test that all the valves are opening and closing as they should when different components of the vaccine move from tank to tank. It’s a complex process, so automation engineers often need to troubleshoot on the job.

To overcome this challenge, part of the funding appropriated from the Commonwealth for the partnership was used to hire Kathleen Gass as the regional manufacturing liaison. Gass accepted the position after spending 18 years of her career in pharmaceutical manufacturing, including jobs at Merck. With this

Gass acts as a mentor and career coach for the student interns. She said the students she works with are always incredibly grateful to land a job at Merck. And Merck is just as satisfied with the arrangement. As Baliko put it, “Across the board, the experience has been overwhelmingly positive. This


partnership has exceeded expectations and has delivered on a reliable pipeline of highly driven and diverse talent.”

REFINING CURRICULUM TO MEET WORKFORCE NEEDS According to Lubin, JMU is one of a few institutions in the Mid-Atlantic that offers a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology. BRCC also offers relevant biotechnology training through its mechatronics program, which weaves together electrical, mechanical, industrial, and computer engineering. Before the partnership began, both JMU and BRCC had been graduating students with relevant backgrounds to work in a variety of pharmaceutical manufacturing roles. But since the program curriculums didn’t always align with specific skillsets Merck was looking for, local students weren’t getting hired. “We spent a lot of time documenting and mapping out what the job requirements are and changing the curriculum to match those,” Downey said. As part of

this process, faculty at JMU and BRCC created a new pathway for graduates of the BRCC mechatronics program to transfer seamlessly to JMU. One of those students was Mark Vakarchuk. He completed his associate’s degree at Blue Ridge, transferred to JMU, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in engineering. He’s one of the dozens of students who went through the internship program and now works at Merck full-time in a job he says he truly enjoys. “Working in a high-tech lab environment [at Merck] is a really unique opportunity that not a lot of people get to have,” Vakarchuk said. “To actually be able to see firsthand what it takes to make a vaccine gives me an interesting perspective.” As part of the $2.5 million grant, Blue Ridge also created a job starter boot camp that pays people to get trained in the manufacturing industry. Downey said the first boot camp was highly successful,

receiving 75 applicants for 25 spots, and ultimately accepting 29 students. This short-term training program helps meet the workforce needs of other local high-tech manufacturers who have been struggling to find workers. The partnership between JMU, BRCC, and Merck has created a model that Lubin said can be applied to a variety of degree programs and industries. It has also shown that local colleges and universities have the capacity to meet the workforce needs of major employers in the area, and local graduates have the skills to thrive in these positions. “Merck is a global company, and they tend to hire people from all over the world. But right here in Harrisonburg, at James Madison University and Blue Ridge, we’re graduating students with the kinds of majors they’re looking for,” Lubin said. “We’re showing that you don’t need to go outside the Commonwealth to find bright, talented students who fit. We’ve got them right here.”

James Madison University

Merck is a global company, and they tend to hire people from all over the world. We’re showing that you don’t need to go outside the Commonwealth to find bright, talented students who fit. We’ve got them right here. MELISSA LUBIN Dean of Professional & Continuing Education and Chief Economic Engagement Officer, James Madison University



Nurturing Innovation in the Life Sciences

A Conversation With Chandra Briggman Chandra Briggman is president and CEO of Activation Capital, an independent authority that supports life sciences and advanced technology companies and entrepreneurship in the Richmond area. In this role, she also oversees the VA Bio+Tech Park, a 34-acre life sciences and emerging technologies community in downtown Richmond, as its president. VEDP Interim President and CEO Jason El Koubi spoke with Briggman about her organization’s mission and activities, the pharmaceutical cluster emerging in Richmond and Petersburg, and the nuances of supporting life sciences investment during a global pandemic.

Jason El Koubi: Give us a quick rundown of Activation Capital and the VA Bio+Tech Park. What are the priorities of the two organizations, and how do their missions complement each other?

house deploys programmatic support for entrepreneur, venture, and cluster development. I like to refer to Activation Capital as a public enterprise — a business with a public mission.

Chandra Briggman: We are an independent authority of the Commonwealth of Virginia created nearly 30 years ago. Our mission is to help grow life sciences and advanced technology innovation for the Commonwealth. Our focus is on tech-based business formation, growth, and economic development. We do that in several ways, but our focus is on ecosystem development — building and scaling homegrown businesses in Virginia.

El Koubi: Can you talk about the burgeoning life sciences cluster in the Richmond and Petersburg regions and the role that you and your team are playing now, and what’s the vision for the future?

We operate an associated nonprofit organization called the Virginia Biotechnology Park Corporation. Activation Capital and the Park corporation operate as one entity, but we do have some lines of separation. Activation Capital focuses on infrastructure (space-making), and the Bio+Tech Park is where all that activity is happening. This is how we generate revenue to support our mission. The nonprofit side of the

Briggman: Our organization was created in part because of this desire to nurture life sciences innovation in the region. That interest stemmed from life sciences-related research from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), located in Richmond. Interest remains today because nearly 70% of the academic inventions coming out of VCU are focused on life sciences. One of the major milestones that VCU recently reached is that it now has over $360 million in sponsored research, most of which is in life sciences. That’s where the focus was derived. With the density of life sciences inventions



growing in Richmond, the question was asked, “How might we capture that and translate that into businesses that are creating social and economic benefits for the region?” Over those 30 years, we’ve seen more than 650 bioscience companies grow up or move to the greater Richmond and Petersburg regions, including Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Waco Chemical, McKesson, and many others. Life sciences is a rather competitive sector. There are some clear leaders around the country that everybody knows, including Boston, Montgomery County, Md., the Philadelphia area, and Raleigh-Durham, to name a few. However, while we saw growth in life sciences activity in our region, we didn’t have a clear specialization — a unique value proposition that would make the region truly competitive. That has changed in recent years with the emergence of the advanced pharmaceutical research and manufacturing cluster. That, too, started as an invention out of VCU that has now grown into this major opportunity for the Richmond-Petersburg area to re-shore the manufacturing of essential medicines in the United States. In terms of our role, Activation Capital secured a grant to support scaling up this new emerging industry with a “cluster accelerator.” We act as a facilitator and convener for the public-private sector coalition members building key components of the emerging cluster.

Our vision is to create an end-to-end supply chain for manufacturing essential medicines in Virginia. Developing a U.S.based supply chain is a national priority that can be met by building upon the assets and momentum in Virginia. We’re the tip of the spear creating this state-side industry because of the early investments by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the federal contract to award up to $843 million for manufacturing in the region, private sector investment, and the state and federal monies awarded to the region. The cluster is poised to help the U.S. become globally competitive in producing its medicines and increasing access to affordable health care. In doing so, we will train and educate Virginians for the 21stcentury jobs that the cluster is helping to create. That’s a major opportunity. El Koubi: Can you talk about the culture of the community that is supporting the growth of the advanced pharmaceutical manufacturing cluster? Briggman: What I’ve noticed in the region since moving here in the summer of 2020, which coincided with this disruption that’s happened because of COVID, is that there’s a lot of support and excitement about making a difference. Before COVID, over the last 20 years, most of the manufacturing of essential medicines had moved overseas. With the disruptions to our supply chain, we saw things like electronics being disrupted

We’re the tip of the spear creating this state-side industry…That’s a major opportunity. CHANDRA BRIGGMAN President and CEO, Activation Capital


and holiday gifts being delayed, etc. We also saw the disruption to our drug supply chain, which became a top priority for the federal government because of the risk to the safety and security of medicines that Americans rely on every day. But the culture is entrepreneurial and mission-driven. The cluster emergence started with the Medicines for All Institute, a mission-driven organization located within the VCU College of Engineering. Then the inventions that came out of Medicines for All were translated into a company, Phlow Corp., a B corporation that is also mission-driven. Then, my organization’s participation in standing up the Cluster Accelerator, also a mission-focused organization, sets the tone for the cluster. All of the partners that have come to the table at this point see the importance of a safe, secure drug supply chain for America, and they’re motivated by making this difference. El Koubi: You mentioned that you started this new role in Virginia amid the COVID-19 pandemic. How did that affect how you approached things and your priorities as a CEO in this space? Briggman: Activation Capital was created by the Commonwealth, but we are a self-sustaining entity, generating revenue to sustain our mission of growing life sciences and innovation. Our revenue is generated from commercial real estate. So, coming into the role in the middle

of a lockdown when commercial real estate was one of the most impacted and disrupted sectors was a little concerning for me out of the gate. But what we’ve observed is that the life sciences sector is rather resilient. It has grown in both the 2008 economic decline and this current downturn. What we saw as an organization was an increase in demand. We never closed our building. We had our offices and lab spaces open for our member companies because they were experimenting and helping solve the problems around life sciences. We were fortunate to be in the one sector in commercial real estate that saw growth. Given the organization’s history of helping to build life sciences assets in Richmond and the region’s growth forecast, we continue to prioritize and make new investments in the sector. El Koubi: How can organizations like Activation Capital encourage investment and entrepreneurship generally, and in the life sciences space in particular? Briggman: At the entrepreneurship level or the venture level, the key is to provide the right kind of programming and mentorship that helps entrepreneurs truly think big and about the biggest problems. That’s where you’re going to see transformational levels of funding from investors — when entrepreneurs are creating companies that can make the greatest global impact because they are



All of the partners that have come to the table at this point see the importance of a safe, secure drug supply chain for America, and they’re motivated by making this difference. CHANDRA BRIGGMAN President and CEO, Activation Capital

focused on bigger problems and disruptive solutions. The focus should be on how we help entrepreneurs focus on the future and where the world is heading. Second is the density of entrepreneurs. The investment will follow if our region can point to the growing number of entrepreneurs innovating in this transformational way. Also important is ensuring that the local environment is conducive for entrepreneurial growth. The region must ensure that the cost and policies for launching and scaling a business are not prohibitive. All of the above is also important for growing life sciences investment. I would add two more things. The first is the importance of university research/ inventions, a robust IP commercialization apparatus, and favorable terms for licensing IP from local universities. One of the first questions we get from potential investors — venture capitalists, real estate developers, etc. — relates to the local university’s quality and volume of research and commercialization activity. The second is building a community of specialized support and resources for entrepreneurs because there are unique challenges to building life sciences companies. El Koubi: Can you talk about how the presence of several university partners in this area has helped the VA Bio+Tech Park attract investment and gain momentum in this area?


Briggman: The university presence is an important driver of investment in the region. In our region, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia State University, and community colleges like Brightpoint Community College are core members of our coalition to grow the advanced pharmaceutical research and manufacturing cluster. As I mentioned, they’re an important source of intellectual property. This whole advanced pharmaceutical manufacturing cluster was spawned by IP coming out of VCU. They’re also an important partner for training the talent needed to work in advanced pharmaceutical research and manufacturing and the companies created or attracted to the region. They’re very, very important from the standpoint of creating the pipeline of talent that’s needed to not only support the cluster’s launch but to maintain a pipeline of innovations and entrepreneurs that will sustain the industry. El Koubi: Let’s talk about some of the other stakeholders and their role in that. You’ve got private-sector companies. You’ve got government. What are the other stakeholders doing? What should their role be in encouraging innovation in the life sciences? Briggman: The private sector is driving a lot of what’s happening in our region now, particularly as it relates to the essential medicine research and manufacturing. They have provided


capital investment for infrastructure totaling $450 million to build an advanced manufacturing campus in Petersburg. In partnership with Brightpoint Community College, the private sector also supports the workforce development needed for their facilities, both for current and future needs. There are projects in the pipeline in the greater Richmond area for lab space in the Bio+Tech Park that will involve private sector investment. The private sector is a major driver in building out this ecosystem at all levels. The local government can play an important role in helping us truly attract supply chain partners to actualize the end-to-end manufacturing of essential medicines in our region. The federal government has invested in the region. Some philanthropic organizations have endorsed the region with funding. I would say funding from the Commonwealth would be a tremendous support for growing this cluster and creating the kind of policies that will make it conducive for the companies that want to come and collocate and help build out this cluster to move to Virginia.

El Koubi: As a photography buff, what are your favorite places to take pictures in Virginia, and any spots that are really important to you as you explore the Commonwealth? Briggman: I live in Richmond now, and when I moved here, everything was locked down, but one of the things I enjoyed was walking through the city and finding all the murals and taking snapshots of those because I love art, and Richmond has a great art scene. So that’s been exciting for me. I’m also a nature buff. Because I relocated during the lockdown, that has afforded me a lot of time to spend outdoors. Since moving back to Virginia, I have enjoyed taking shots in the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley and out in the western part of the state along the Appalachian Trail.

For the full interview, visit

As we think about nurturing entrepreneurs, how do we help them think big? How do we help them focus on the future and where the world is heading? The kind of advice that we give to entrepreneurial support organizations is, “The bigger, the better, because it’s going to make a larger impact.” CHANDRA BRIGGMAN President and CEO, Activation Capital


WynnVision LLC, based out of the VA Bio+Tech Park in Richmond, creates biofilms that kill bacteria on contact for use in medical devices.

Virginia Life Sciences Ecosystem Helps Make Research Breakthroughs Reality 52

Without CvilleBioHub, we wouldn’t have been able to source the talent that we have. NEAL PIPER Founder and CEO, Luminoah

LIKE MANY MEDICAL device startups, Luminoah began with a bright idea brought about by a personal need. In 2019, founder Neal Piper’s young son, Noah, had a medical issue that necessitated the use of a feeding tube. The tube required Noah to stay still for up to six hours a day — a near-impossible task for a toddler — and it would often leak or become dislodged, resulting in an emergency trip to the doctor. Feeding tube problems can lead to serious, potentially fatal side effects, on top of the discomfort of the tube itself. In 2020, Piper founded Luminoah, a company whose nutritional delivery system — a wearable medical device with integrated software for monitoring and operation — he hopes will “revolutionize” care for the nearly 500,000 people who use feeding tubes in the United States each year. He says the system “will completely eliminate the need for patients having an IV pull.” Also like most medical device startups, Luminoah’s “Eureka!” moment was quickly followed by financing questions. Researchers like Piper’s team must

demonstrate both the need for their product and the efficacy of that product before beginning the regulatory approval process, itself a mandatory step that must be completed before a company can begin to make money from the product. Combine those factors with the capitalintensive nature of medical research, and the need for a robust support system for startups becomes apparent. Resources for life sciences startups can include accelerators that offer low-cost lab space, organizations to connect like-minded researchers, and funding sources to help defray operating costs as companies work toward scientific and operational milestones. Those funding sources can be state-operated, like the Virginia Catalyst and Virginia Venture Partners Funds (VVP Funds) in the Commonwealth, or made up of individual investors looking to back promising ideas. Luminoah has received nearly $1 million in seed funding from Virginia-based investors, and Piper also attributes the company’s growth to CvilleBioHub, an industry-led nonprofit that provides mentorship, facilitates connections, and generally supports Virginia-based startups in the life sciences sphere with “whatever they need help with,” according to Nikki Hastings, the organization’s entrepreneur in residence. In addition to connecting with other founders at a high level, CvilleBioHub hosts an internship program that pulls from the

many institutes of higher learning in the area, including the University of Virginia’s (UVA) biomedical engineering master’s program. Needing to staff up quickly, the company benefited from the ability to draw talent from the internship program. “One of those engineers is now working with us full-time and has been a key member of the team helping lead development of our R&D process,” Piper said. “Without CvilleBioHub, we wouldn’t have been able to source the talent that we have.”

GETTING FLEDGLING COMPANIES OFF THE GROUND CvilleBioHub is one of several programs scattered across the state that provide resources, investment, and expertise to help life sciences companies grow. According to Virginia Bio, a trade association that serves and promotes the life sciences industry in the Commonwealth, the industry contributes $8 billion to the Commonwealth’s economy annually, with nearly 1,500 companies employing more than 75,000 Virginians, and the share is growing. “Our goal is to double the size of the industry by 2030,” said CvilleBioHub Executive Director Steph Oettinger, whose organization is the model for similar hubs being launched in Northern Virginia, Richmond, Roanoke/Blacksburg, and the Hampton Roads region. Those groups will be funded in part by a 2020 GO Virginia grant, which will also support a new statewide life sciences hub, Virginia Bio-Connect.


Ceres Nanosciences, Inc., was the first graduate of the Prince William Science Accelerator.

A lot of these projects haven’t achieved enough to really attract sophisticated venture capital. They need to get their intellectual property in, create a prototype, create a proof of concept. Our funding helps them do that, allowing them to go out and raise capital. MIKE GRISHAM President and CEO, Virginia Catalyst


The Prince William Science Accelerator, anchored by George Mason University’s (GMU) Science and Technology campus, was launched in 2014 to provide space and resources to young entrepreneurs and biosciences graduates. Now, many of those companies are outgrowing the accelerator. Four of the companies based in the accelerator plan to move into the recently launched Northern Virginia Bioscience Center. ISOThrive, a gut health company, was the first accelerator tenant and will move to a much larger lab at the new facility. In Richmond, the VA Bio+Tech Park benefits from its proximity to Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). More than 150 companies have started in the VA Bio+Tech Center, the park’s life sciences incubator, with approximately a quarter of those beginning with ideas developed at VCU. Currently, 48 companies operate out of the VA Bio+Tech Center. The city of Virginia Beach opened its own dedicated accelerator space in 2021. The new home of the VABeachBio Accelerator — initially launched in 2015 in partnership with Tidewater Community College — will be ready for startups this year, according to Facility Logix, a consulting firm hired by the city to manage the accelerator. The city is looking to lease the space

to small companies and winners of the VABeachBio Innovation Challenge, an open competition focused on developing solutions to health problems that affect veterans.

STATE FUNDS, PARTNERSHIPS SUPPORT INNOVATION Accelerator facilities can solve many problems for startups, including seed funding in some cases. But research-intensive life sciences startups require significant capital to reach key milestones, necessitating other sources of funding — and Virginia is continuing to develop resources to supplement and incentivize private investment. The Virginia Catalyst fund from the Virginia Biosciences Health Research Corporation, a partnership between state government and six Virginia public research universities — GMU, UVA, VCU, Old Dominion University, Virginia Tech, and Eastern Virginia Medical School — issues grants that support collaborative partnerships between industry partners, health systems, and two or more Virginia universities. The fund has awarded more than $21 million in grants since 2013, supporting 46 collaborative projects with 35 industry partners, and President and CEO Mike Grisham says the grants have led to $245 million in follow-on funding from venture capitalists and other sources.

Virginia Catalyst Fund Encourages Collaboration The Virginia Catalyst fund has backed 46 projects involving 35 industry partners in collaboration with Virginia universities.

29 Projects

Collaborations with: • VT, VCU, GMU, EVMS, ODU

9 Projects

Collaborations with: • UVA, VT, EVMS, VCU

21 Projects

Collaborations with: • VT, UVA, ODU, GMU

7 Projects

Collaborations with: • EVMS, VCU, UVA

10 Projects

Collaborations with: • UVA, ODU, GMU, VCU

19 Projects

Collaborations with: • UVA, VCU, GMU

“A lot of these projects haven’t achieved enough to really attract sophisticated venture capital,” Grisham said. “They need to get their intellectual property in, create a prototype, create a proof of concept. Our funding helps them do that, allowing them to go out and raise capital from angel investors, venture capitalists, and Fortune 500 corporations that want to invest in and commercialize the innovations we’re creating here in Virginia.” The Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation, formerly the Center for Innovative Technology, runs VVP Funds, a family of investment funds formerly known as CIT GAP Funds, which supports life sciences, technology, and cleantech companies. VVP Funds has invested more than $32 million across its target industries since its launch in 2005 while helping connect companies with accelerators, seed funds, and angel investors. While public investment dollars are available, Virginia also has an active private investment ecosystem, ranking 13th in the United States in venture capital deals in 2020, according to the PricewaterhouseCoopers MoneyTree report.

Source: Virginia Biosciences Health Research Corporation

A SWEET SUCCESS STORY IN ALBEMARLE COUNTY Other companies are developing partnerships with industry leaders to further their research, development, and production. Bonumose, Inc., a CvilleBioHub member based in Albemarle County, announced an expansion last year, along with a partnership with candy giant The Hershey Company that will enable the company to expand its research into new sugars and develop reduced-sugar confections. Along with Hershey, Bonumose’s backers include sweetener company American Sugar Refining, Inc., the world’s largest cane sugar refiner and marketer. Bonumose CEO Ed Rogers and Chief Scientific Officer Dan Wichelecki connected at Blacksburg startup Cell-Free Bioinnovations, formed by Virginia Tech researchers, and the company was founded in 2016 with support from a Charlottesville-area angel investor. Last year, the FDA and Health Canada approved Bonumose’s manufacturing method for tagatose, a rare sugar that has minimal effects on blood glucose and insulin levels, using byproducts

left over from food production. Now the company is looking to scale up its research and production of tagatose and other rare sugars, backed by some of the food and beverage industry’s biggest names. “By bringing together the necessary expertise, capabilities, and resources all under one roof, scaling transformative uses of rare sugar alternatives will become a reality,” Hershey Chief Development Officer Kris Meulen said. Bonumose’s story is an example of the various aspects of the Virginia life sciences ecosystem supporting groundbreaking research — a company based on ideas developed at a Virginia university-affiliated research park, supported by local investors and resources from another Virginia university, which found willing partners in the business community. Now, as the company prepares to apply its research to creating healthier snacks, researchers across the Commonwealth are working to develop the next big life sciences idea, enabled by Virginia accelerators and investors.


Civica’s Petersburg Plant to Produce Low-Cost Insulin Nonprofit generic drug producer Civica, Inc., founded to address chronic generic drug shortages and high drug prices, has entered into an agreement with GeneSys Biologics to manufacture and distribute three insulins at significantly lower prices than those currently available in the United States. The insulins will be manufactured at the company’s state-of-the-art, 140,000-square-foot facility currently under construction in the city of Petersburg, which will have the capacity to produce 90 million vials and 50 million pre-filled syringes, a substantial portion of the insulin needed in the United States. The insulins will be sold at a recommended price of no more than $30 per vial and $55 for a box of five pen cartridges, significantly lower than prices currently charged to uninsured individuals. The new facility, expected to be online by early 2024, is being built to accommodate future growth and will be the future home of Civica Insulin.


Rendering of Civica, Inc., Manufacturing Facility, Petersburg

“With its welcoming partnerships, central location along I-95, and growing life sciences workforce, we are thrilled to build this new facility in Virginia. This is a dream come true for Civica and our hospital partners as we work together to stabilize the supply of quality medicines for patients across the country. MARTIN VanTRIESTE President and CEO, Civica, Inc.


GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare, Richmond


GLAXOSMITHKLINE HITS THE GROUND RUNNING IN RICHMOND Pharmaceutical giant uses Virginia Talent Accelerator Program to staff up quickly DESPITE facing an unprecedented global pandemic, executives at GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare (GSK) were able to recruit 150 new employees for the company’s research and development center in Richmond. In October 2019, the company announced Richmond as the site for one of GSK’s three research and development laboratory hubs for the company’s global business — and that GSK planned to invest $16.7 million in expansions at the facility and bring new jobs to the Commonwealth. The news came months after GSK finalized a transaction with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. to combine their two consumer healthcare businesses into the largest over-the-counter healthcare company in the world. Previously, the Richmond facility had served as the global research and development headquarters for Pfizer Consumer Healthcare. Richmond and Virginia officials, along with VEDP

representatives, diligently competed with GSK Consumer Healthcare’s other domestic and international research and development network sites to land the project for Richmond. Luckily, the state capital proved to be the best location for GSK. “Not only do Richmond and the Commonwealth provide access to great talent and great universities, but it’s also a businessfriendly environment here, as well,” said Dr. Peter John Ramsey, vice president and head of GSK, Consumer Healthcare R&D, the Americas. Today, GSK’s R&D complex on Sherwood Avenue in Richmond serves as a nucleus of innovation where scientists and engineers work to develop new products to add to GSK’s list of consumer healthcare brands, which includes household names like Robitussin, ChapStick, Advil, and Centrum. As Ramsey put it, “A lot of iconic brands for the world are developed here.”



Typically, the staff stays busy developing about a hundred new products at any one time, according to Todd Koch, a senior director and site lead for GSK Consumer Healthcare. For GSK, success depends on hiring some of the brightest minds in science. “Great talent is what we need, and so recruiting for us becomes a very pivotal and critical activity,” said Ramsey. GSK hiring managers look for professionals with an understanding of consumer healthcare trends and regulatory issues. “It’s important to have individuals who not only have a scientific and technical background, but individuals who understand the business,” Ramsey said. The company is almost always looking to hire for three in-demand positions:

GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare, Richmond


formulation scientists, who conduct experiments to create new products and improve existing formulations; analytical chemists, who work in the labs studying various dose forms of products and troubleshooting manufacturing issues; and process engineers, who design processes for manufacturing products on a large scale. “It’s been a challenge to fill some of those positions because there’s a low supply of those individuals, but, overall, we’ve been pretty successful with all three categories,” Koch said. In a typical year, the R&D facility in Richmond would have a 4% vacancy rate, which means the company would need to hire around a dozen new employees. GSK’s plan to recruit 150 skilled employees was a significantly bigger


endeavor, but Dana Allison, a human resources director for GSK, felt up to the challenge. “It was really very exciting to be in a growth mode and to be able to hire new scientists,” she said.

restructuring plan. “To be able to bring expertise — not only their scientific expertise, but their background in GSK processes and culture — was very important to us,” Allison said.

Shortly after the announcement of the expansion at GSK’s Richmond facility, Allison met with specialists from VEDP’s Virginia Talent Accelerator Program, a workforce initiative that offers world-class training and recruitment solutions that are fully customized to a company’s unique operations, equipment, standards, and culture. Together, they began work on a recruitment campaign.

The recruitment team knew it would be a challenge, though, to convince people to uproot their families and move several hours away.

“The team was so responsive,” Allison said. “And they deliver on their commitments. They do what they say they’re going to do.” The first order of business was wooing scientists from a small GSK R&D laboratory in Warren, N.J., which was closing as part of the company’s

“We had to sell the city,” said Lucas Sakalem, digital marketing manager for employer branding and recruitment at GSK. “It’s not just about selling GSK as an employer of choice. It’s about selling Richmond as a great city to live and work in.” Lightning-quick, the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program’s video production services team partnered with Richmond officials to produce a sleek video showcasing the city’s quality of life. Allison was impressed by how quickly everything came together. “We were

ready to go inside of a month with new videos, with packets that the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program team and the city of Richmond put together for our colleagues,” she said. “Everyone hopped on a plane and we were there.” Allison set a goal for the trip: she hoped to convince two scientists to move to Richmond. When it was all said and done, 17 decided to make the move. “I think we ended up securing about half of the group that was impacted,” Allison said. “So, we were over the moon.” By March 2020, however, the recruitment team could see their job was about to get considerably tougher. That month, Virginia went under a stay-athome order in hopes of slowing the spread of COVID-19. “We knew that it was going to be an added challenge to convince people to relocate in the middle of such an unprecedented pandemic,” said Sakalem.

We had to sell the city. It’s not just about selling GSK as an employer of choice. It’s about selling Richmond as a great city to live and work in. LUCAS SAKALEM Digital Marketing Manager for Employer Branding and Recruitment, GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare

That data enabled us to do targeted recruitment, to target the types of skills and experience we needed. So, we had nice-sized talent pools. For harder-to-fill positions, the data helped us go to the right places to find skilled professionals. DANA ALLISON Human Resources Director, GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare

Even so, the team couldn’t put hiring on hold. Following the transaction with Pfizer, other GSK Consumer Healthcare R&D centers around the globe had closed. The Richmond facility needed to take on their work. “Waiting was not really an option,” Koch said. “So, we had to figure out how to solve the problem by doing it virtually.” Due to COVID-19 precautions, the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program’s video production services team could no longer shoot footage at the Richmond facility. Sakalem, though, still needed fresh content to post on LinkedIn about the job openings. As a workaround, Virginia Talent Accelerator Program staff virtually coached GSK’s Richmond employees on how to create digital videos on their


computers with high-quality sound and lighting. “We made a new round of videos from that,” Sakalem said. The videos were part of a comprehensive suite of talent acquisition services provided by the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program. These services included extensive digital advertising based on detailed talent acquisition analytics. The research guided Sakalem in how to approach his online marketing efforts as he worked to attract scientists and engineers to GSK. “We needed to understand our audience a little bit,” he said. “Where are they? Where do they work? What companies are they working for right now?”


GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare, Richmond

“That data enabled us to do targeted recruitment, to target the types of skills and experience we needed,” Allison said. “So, we had nice-sized talent pools. For harder-to-fill positions, the data helped us go to the right places to find skilled professionals.” Knowing GSK’s commitment to inclusion and diversity, staff members from the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program secured a premium sponsorship for GSK with HBCU Connect, an organization that connects companies with students and alumni from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. That organization later hosted a webinar featuring GSK employees of color talking about their experiences at the company. “We

connected with a number of candidates who have come out of great HBCUs who were interested in roles with GSK,” Ramsey said. To help GSK assimilate all the new employees into the organization, the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program collaborated with the leadership team to develop a unique employee engagement program for the remote workforce. After all, many of the new hires have had to work remotely due to the pandemic. “We have employees now who started working with us last year who’ve never been in the building,” said Koch. As the country begins to return to normalcy after the pandemic, more

GSK employees will transition back to working at the Sherwood Avenue facility. As they do, Ramsey wants them to understand the importance of building a collaborative environment. To support this, the Virginia Talent Accelerator Program team is poised to pivot to in-person training, which will equip new employees with skills that enhance collaboration while providing a shared experience that should prove invaluable for building relationships with their new colleagues. “It’s going to be very important for us to maintain a culture of connectivity and that family feel,” Ramsey said, “and to continue to build it as we assimilate new colleagues who may not have been exposed to that in the past.”




Medical Device Manufacturer Embody Sets Stage for International Growth Norfolk-based Embody, Inc., the six-year process of product development, preclinical testing, and compliance hurdles to get its collagen-based tendon and ligament implant, Tapestry, into the U.S. market helped set the stage for the lengthy international regulatory process ahead. From the beginning of the product’s development, the team knew there would be a major overseas market for its bioengineered solution. Not only did Tapestry present a stronger, more biologically advanced alternative to currently available implants, it provided an option for areas outside the U.S. that avoid typical tendon repair solutions due to religious objections around the use of grafts based on human or animal tissue. “Although the U.S. is a leader particularly in medical device technology innovation, the global market plays a key role in the utilization of these products,” said Rob Brown, Embody’s chief commercial officer. To begin its entry into the overseas market, Embody targeted Europe, which Brown notes is “probably the second-largest consumer of medical device products, particularly in orthopedics and sports medicine.” However, Europe’s medical device regulations had completed a decades-long update in 2021, creating a more stringent process for compliance. Perhaps the biggest difference between FDA compliance and the process for securing CE marking — which signifies a product’s conformity with European Union health, safety, and environmental protection standards — is that Europe’s medical device regulations allow clinical data only. The


U.S. allows for the use of preclinical data to demonstrate a medical product’s efficacy. “We are gathering clinical data now in the United States, which will be supportive data for when we go to register our device outside the U.S.,” Brown said. He predicts that Embody is roughly two years out from securing its CE marking. That provides two years of opportunity to assess overseas markets and build connections to ensure a robust sales channel as soon as the product is approved for use. Brown’s history in supporting medical device sales in large organizations and international startups has shown him the importance of building connections early to support future international sales. To this end, Embody reached out to VEDP’s International Trade team for overseas support. Embody’s leadership had a fair idea of the support available from the state. The technology behind the company had been born in the biomedical engineering labs of Virginia Commonwealth University and has grown at the Innovation Research Park at Old Dominion University (ODU). The Innovation Research Park is home to a range of technology and health companies, a business incubator, and proximity to ODU research expertise, federal labs, and military centers able to aid companies at every point of their development cycle. These resources have helped the company at every stage of its growth. In 2017, Embody was the first recipient under Norfolk’s “Innovation Fund,” which the city’s economic development authority called the first municipal venture-capital fund in Virginia. The company has also leveraged millions in grants from the Arlington-based Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corp.’s

Commonwealth Research Commercialization Fund, and Virginia Catalyst, which supports collaboration between Virginia research universities and bioscience firms through funding. It only made sense to turn to Virginia resources as the company prepared to enter overseas markets. “The biggest benefit has been being able to leverage the capabilities of VEDP to make some connections, particularly with market research,” Brown said. VEDP’s team of international research consultants covers more than 85 countries and provides support to Virginia businesses with individual market assessments that gauge opportunity in specific international markets. This might include compiling background information, identifying potential representatives, or even arranging appointments with likely distributors. For Embody, the first step was an analysis of opportunity for Tapestry in the United Kingdom. “It makes it easier in that [the VEDP team] has been able to bring forward individuals who are immersed in those local markets where we may not have had formative relationships,” Brown said. “They’ve been able to help us make strong connections.” In January 2021, Embody was among 10 companies selected to participate in the two-year Virginia Leaders in Export Trade (VALET) Program. VALET supports companies with export planning services tailored to meet their international goals. A team of international public and private service providers contributes expertise to help position companies for overseas success. While Embody is planning its first international trade mission for 2022, VALET has already helped the company gain some exposure to the international scene. With funding support through VALET, Embody exhibited at the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons’ 2021 Annual Meeting in San Diego, “probably the biggest meeting in the world for orthopedics,” Brown said, and has plans to return in 2022. “Those kinds of things are helpful for a company in our stage,” Brown added.

Being able to capitalize and leverage the resources available through the state of Virginia can help us accelerate not only our plan, but potentially increase the likelihood of success as we start that path of distribution beyond the United States. ROB BROWN Chief Commercial Officer, Embody, Inc.

This type of exposure is a valuable stepping stone for entering overseas markets and the type of sustainable growth critical for long-term success. “We’re positioning ourselves to be a company that’s not just successful in the United States, but a company that has potential to expand globally,” Brown said. “Being able to capitalize and leverage the resources available through the state of Virginia can help us accelerate not only our plan, but potentially increase the likelihood of success as we start that path of distribution beyond the United States.” That success, in turn, stands to impact countless more individuals around the world seeking relief from tendon injuries.



Anchored by the Tri-Cities of Petersburg, Hopewell, and Colonial Heights, Virginia’s Gateway Region is notable for its historic sites and its connectivity — Interstates 85, 95, and 295 run through the region, along with the four-lane U.S. 460, connecting it with The Port of Virginia and major population centers in Richmond, Hampton Roads, and along the entire East Coast. This infrastructure makes Virginia’s Gateway Region a natural fit for distributors, with Aldi, Amazon, Food Lion, Goya Foods, and Walmart establishing logistics facilities in the region. Other key industries in the region include advanced manufacturing (AdvanSix, Amsted Rail, Ashland, Evonik, Gerdau, Service Center Metals), food and beverage processing (Boar’s Head, Perdue Farms, Virginia Diner), and an emerging pharmaceutical sector (see page 18).

VIRGINIA’S GATEWAY REGION OFFERS A major U.S. military logistics presence at Fort Lee, home to the U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum and the U.S. Army Women’s Museum


Richard Bland College, a two-year college affiliated with William & Mary, and two advanced research centers (the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Logistics Systems in Petersburg and the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing in Prince George County)

Abundant water recreation opportunities on the Appomattox and James Rivers

The Beacon Theatre in Hopewell was built in 1928, closed in 1981, and restored and reopened for the city’s centennial in 2015.


Virginia offers an enabling environment for developing and sustaining the growth in capacity and infrastructure demanded for the pharmaceutical industry. Our growing relationship with the Commonwealth and the city of Petersburg is a cornerstone of our vision for American-based manufacturing of critical pharmaceutical ingredients. DR. BILL DuBAY Vice President of Global Research and Development, SK pharmteco


Chippokes Plantation State Park, Surry County


Hopewell Riverwalk


The Petersburg courthouse anchors one of several historic districts in the city’s downtown area, showcasing buildings that date back to the early 18th century.

The first known commercial peanut crop in the United States was harvested in Sussex County near the town of Waverly. Today, a peanut graces the water tower in nearby Wakefield, where the Virginia Diner serves its “World Famous Peanut Pie.”


Economic Development Partners in Virginia VEDP works in close partnership with local and regional economic development organizations. For a full list of local and regional partners, visit In addition, VEDP regularly works with a wide network of statewide partners, including: State Leadership Partners

Project Delivery Partners


Colleges and universities across the Commonwealth (e.g., UVA, Virginia Tech, William & Mary)

General Assembly

Policy and Programmatic Partners Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transit

GO Virginia

Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity

State Council of Higher Education for Virginia

Virginia Chamber of Commerce, as well as many local and regional chambers of commerce

Virginia Agribusiness Council

Virginia Economic Developers Association

Virginia Association of Counties

Virginia Farm Bureau

Major Employment and Investment (MEI) Commission

CSX, Norfolk Southern, and short-line railroads

Secretary of Commerce and Trade

Dominion, AEP, and other electric utilities

Secretary of Finance

The Port of Virginia

Virginia Department of Transportation

Virginia Community College System

Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation

Virginia Business Higher Education Council

Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality

Virginia Tourism Corporation

Virginia Cable Telecommunications Association, Virginia Manufacturers Association, Virginia Maritime Association, Virginia Realtors Association, and many other trade associations

Virginia Department of Taxation

Virginia Business Council

Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development

Virginia Municipal League Virginia Association of Planning District Commissions Virginia Rural Center


Virginia’s Technology Councils



Roanoke Region New River Valley




Southwest Virginia






I81-I77 Crossroads 77 58

72 72


Northern Shenandoah Valley


Washington, D.C.

66 81

Northern Virginia

211 33


Shenandoah Valley


Greater Fredericksburg

Central Virginia


95 81

Northern Neck







Eastern Shore

Middle Peninsula 13

Greater Richmond Lynchburg Region

60 288






Virginia’s Gateway Region




South Central 360 Virginia

Southern Virginia





Hampton Roads




2021 States of the Year



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