Governor McAuliffe announces new Virginia Bioscience Initiative

state-capitol2Governor Terry McAuliffe on Thursday announced a Virginia Bioscience Initiative, kicking off the effort with a public and private sector roundtable discussion on the commercialization of university bioscience research at the State Capitol.  University representatives and bio industry leaders joined the Governor, members of his administration and renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Dr. Robert S. Langer for this discussion.

Speaking at today’s announcement, Governor McAuliffe stated, “The bioscience industry in Virginia is strong, and can be even stronger with this focused initiative.  Our charge today is to use the Commonwealth’s extensive assets, including our excellent research universities and world class businesses, to catalyze the growth of this strategic sector and the new Virginia economy.”

Governor McAuliffe’s initiative will be a collaborative, multi-year effort involving several secretariats, state agencies, higher education, private sector research enterprises and businesses throughout the Commonwealth.  Today’s announcement is the first step in this journey to build strategic momentum in this critical sector.  Initial focus areas include elevating the profile of the Virginia bioscience industry, enhancing incentives for bioscience businesses, leveraging existing assets into new opportunities, assuring an outstanding bioscience workforce, and promoting commercialization of university research.

The Governor’s Bioscience Initiative will focus on six core goals:

  1. Elevate the profile of the industry within and outside the state, communicate the state’s focused commitment, and challenge the industry to reach its potential.
  1. Expand on strategies that support entrepreneurship, innovation, collaboration, and business development, and prioritize funding of commercialization programs.
  1. Capitalize on our strengths to leverage extramural funding, launch new businesses, recruit investment, and create high paying jobs by focusing on areas of competitive research and industry advantage and creating synergies with Virginia’s world class IT sector through big data.
  1. Establish a Virginia Ag Bio Initiative with a Virginia Ag Bio Advisory Committee to harness and grow industries that utilize bioscience for producing food and fuel.
  1. Identify workforce development initiatives that align with Virginia bioscience industry needs.
  1. Lead the nation in the ease of commercializing translational research from public universities and getting innovation to the patient’s bedside faster.

Virginia enjoys a diverse and highly educated, technical workforce, a strong private investment community, strong research universities, an entrepreneurial and business friendly environment, and proximity to both the nation’s capital and key resources, all of which will allow the bioscience industry in the Commonwealth to become a leading pillar of the new Virginia economy.  Further, fifty percent of all research done by Virginia universities is in the biosciences. Virginia has tremendous resources in its research universities, including extraordinary research which can spark and sustain bioscience economic activity, but the interface between universities and industries will garner more attention and improvement from this statewide effort.

Professor Langer, who serves as the distinguished David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT, said today, “I applaud Governor McAuliffe for recognizing the importance of the bioscience field to the economic future of Virginia.  Many researchers, entrepreneurs and policy makers have worked hard to put Virginia in the strong position it is in today.  Innovative and important research is being conducted and commercialized all over the state and the potential is there for Virginia to become even more of a leader in this industry.”

According to a 2014 Battelle Bio study, Virginia’s biotechnology industry is thriving, with more than 26,500 industry jobs that spanned 1,451 business establishments in 2012.  The same study shows Virginia enjoyed double-digit employment gains from 2007 – 2012 in the agricultural feedstock and chemicals subsector, which involves industries that utilize biochemistry and biotechnology for producing everything from food to fuel.  Building on these strengths with cutting edge research at our universities, including land-grant universities and the statewide agricultural extension network, presents an opportunity for Virginia to continue growth in this sector.  Therefore, part of today’s announcement also includes the commencement of a Virginia Agriculture Biotechnology Initiative.

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