Hampton Roads to get $14 Million for research

By TREVOR METCALFE – Virginian-Pilot, Inside Business, June 24, 2019.

Hampton Roads is about to be the location for a large biomedical research project – a $14 million partnership between area universities, hospitals, and community groups.

The stakeholders just need to figure out how the entire thing works first.

Virginia legislators appropriated $14 million in project funding earlier this year as part of the state budget.  Del. Chris Jones said the project got started because lawmakers knew Virginia, and Hampton Roads, must work to diversify its economy.

“Everyone agrees Virginia needs to expand its economic portfolio to build an economy more resistant to federal spending downturns,” Jones said in an email.  “Expanding research development and commercialization allows us to capitalize on the unique strengths of the commonwealth, including our higher education system.”

According to budget language, funding includes $4 million from the state’s general fund, which will be used in the second year of the program as Virginia’s initial investment.  Additionally, $10 million in bonds will become available in the second year for lab renovations and enhancements at the University of Virginia, Old Dominion University, and Eastern Virginia Medical School.

U.Va. will also be able to use up to $250,000 of that $4 million to hire a consultant to help design the program.

Before the region can use the funding, the budget instructs stakeholders to form a workgroup of representatives from ODU, EVMS, the Hamptons Roads Community Foundation, and an area hospital.  That group will have until Dec. 1 to formulate a plan to identify research areas, conduct a regional health risk assessment, and “identify cost sharing strategies between and among the partnering institutions and entities to include matching requirements.”

After talking with stakeholders across the state, Jones said he realized Hampton Roads is a perfect location for biomedical research, especially considering its diverse population and large military presence.

“It’s just a matter of bringing along all the willing partners and the leverage of state funding to help launch the enterprise,” Jones said.

He also said both Roanoke and Northern Virginia had successfully implemented similar programs.  In 2007, Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic joined forces in a public-private partnership.  Since then, the institutions have established a medical school and generated almost $100 million in research grant funding.  U.Va. has accomplished similar goals in Northern Virginia with Inova Health System, Jones said.