Governor, VT Carilion Officials Break Ground on Major Biomedical Research Expansion

A 90 million expansion of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute broke ground in late October with Governor Terry McAuliffe and officials from both institutions on hand.

The VTC Biomedical Research Expansion, as it will be known, includes a 139,000 square foot building across from the current research institute building. The two structures will be connected via an elevated walkway. The state is funding 48 million dollars for the expansion; Virginia Tech is responsible for 29 million and Carilion for 13 million.

When completed in several years the expansion will bring hundreds more researchers and students to the valley, working in state of the art laboratories organized around interactive research themes. Experiential learning environments are also promised. McAuliffe said he looked forward to the spinoff private companies he expects will result from research that takes place in the new facility, which has been on the wish list for some time.

“This is a great day for our city and the valley,” said Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea at the groundbreaking. “With partners like Virginia Tech and Carilion we are certainly reaping the benefits from these initiatives,” said Lea of the jobs and related developments – like The Bridges mixed-use complex right across the street – that sprang to life after the former brownfield was turned into the Virginia Tech Carilion campus.

Virginia Tech president Dr. Timothy Sands recalled the initial VTC groundbreaking in 2008 – although he wasn’t around yet. Charles Steger was the school’s president then. “It’s remarkable to consider what has been accomplished in less than 10 years – one of the best research oriented medical schools in the country [and] a research institute that makes a huge impact.”

Sands said the Virginia Tech-Carilion partnership, together with support from the city and the commonwealth, is attracting “world class talent to the region, an enterprise that is already making a difference in people’s lives.” Then Sands asked the several hundred gathered for the groundbreaking “to imagine the transformation that could happen in the next decade.”

Sands also envisions the partnership between Virginia Tech and Carilion advancing “to a new level.” Indeed, next summer the medical school officially becomes the ninth school at Tech, a transformation now underway.

The new facility will focus in part on brain research and cardiovascular science, and the growing fields of infectious diseases and immunology.  Metabolism and obesity research are targets as well. Cancer treatments for both humans and pets, in collaboration with the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, is also planned. “We have great confidence in this vision [for the new facility] because of the strength of our partnership,” said Sands.

Virginia Tech Vice President for Health Sciences and Technology Michael Friedlander praised the “new model medical school,” led by Cynda Johnson, also located at the same campus on South Jefferson Street, as one that is “challenging dogma and educating a new generation of scientist-physicians.”

Friedlander noted several partnerships that have already come from the research institute he oversees and said “that was just phase one in the first seven years. This exciting new expansion will house a cadre of new pioneers leading to breakthroughs not even imagined; to break through the scientific boundaries to repair our bodies and repair our minds.” The new building is going up where the inner parking lot was at the Riverside campus – but not to worry… a replacement surface lot on Reserve Avenue has already been put in place.

Gene Marrano