New life sciences hub will connect students with opportunities and support early stage companies

CAPMM lab shot
Photo by Evan Cantwell/Creative Services

Northern Virginia will become a regional hub for Virginia Bio-Connect, a statewide initiative for life sciences and biotechnology work.

George Mason University and the Prince William County Department of Economic Development will lead the Northern Virginia BioHub, one of five clusters that will exist throughout the commonwealth by Virginia Bio-Connect. The project, which is directed by the Virginia Biotechnology Association and supported by a two-year, $3.2 million initiative funded by a GO Virginia statewide competitive matching grant, is a collaboration designed to increase connectivity and awareness of the existing programs, resources and communities in the commonwealth that support the life sciences industry.

Virginia Bio-Connect plans engage all higher education institutions across the state, including community college systems. Other universities leading clusters include University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth University and the East Virginia Medical School.

Virginia Bio-Connect will be a central hub for the life science community to find relevant resources across the state, including commercialization and entrepreneurship programs, funding mechanisms, accelerators, job boards, internship programs, and core research equipment facilities. The program will provide the pathway for businesses to find the support, expertise, and workforce needed to grow and prosper in Virginia.

During the two-year grant period, Virginia Bio-Connect will create a workforce development program to connect Virginia undergraduate and graduate students with Virginia-based life science and biotechnology companies, including an industry-specific internship program that will enroll 100 students from across the state.

“Students in Northern Virginia will have the opportunity to be part of a statewide cohort and develop meaningful connections with Virginia’s life science industry professionals,” said Amy Adams, executive director of Mason’s Institute for Biohealth Innovation, who will co-direct the Northern Virginia BioHub. “It’s a win-win for both our students who will gain practical skills, making them more competitive in the job market, and for companies seeking a diverse talented workforce pipeline.”

John Newby, Virginia Bio’s chief executive officer and the designated lead of the new consortium, explained that the biotechnology industry—beyond its work to stimulate innovation and improve health—has an $8 billion economic impact in Virginia.

Virginia Bio-Connect is projected to foster the creation of 15 new life science companies and 254 new jobs, and to provide a more than $25 million boost to the state economy. The program will also launch a Virtual Entrepreneur-in-Residence Network (VERN), featuring four entrepreneurs who will support the companies.

Deborah Roder, business development manager, science, for Prince William County and co-director of the Northern Virginia BioHub added, “Virginia Bio-Connect provides the resources life science startups need to navigate the industry-specific complex regulatory systems, find their highly skilled workforce, and locate the existing entrepreneur support systems already in place throughout the commonwealth.”

The five regional BioHubs and co-leading entities are:

  • Charlottesville/Albemarle: CvilleBioHub and University of Virginia Licensing and Ventures Group
  • Coastal Virginia: City of Virginia Beach Economic Development and Eastern Virginia Medical School
  • Northern Virginia: Prince William County Department of Economic Development and George Mason University
  • Richmond: Activation Capital and VCU Innovation Gateway
  • Roanoke/Blacksburg/Lynchburg: Virginia Tech Fralin Biomedical Research Institute and Carilion Clinic

Listen to Adams, Newby and Nikki Hastings discuss the initiative on an episode of the podcast BioTalk with Rich Bendis.