Mason to contribute to life sciences research

Mason will be part of a statewide partnership in life sciences research (photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons).
Mason will be part of a statewide partnership in life sciences research (photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons).

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership announced the creation of the Virginia Biosciences Health Research Corporation on Monday, Feb. 5. The organization's goal is to spark life sciences research in Northern Virginia with the assistance of key Virginia universities.

George Mason University is among the five charter universities of the VBHRC. The other four are Eastern Virginia Medical School, the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia tech.

"Mason was one of the original architects of this idea," said Emanuel Petricoin, Mason's representative on the VBHRC's board of directors. "I was involved in this from the very beginning to help the university help firmly link with the life science industry."

Each university will contribute $50,000 this year and in 2014 to the group's fund. The Virginia General Assembly has also contributed $5 million from the state's 2013-2014 budget year general fund, according to an article by “The Daily Progress.”

This accumulated fund will initially be used to establish the organization's basic infrastructure, however, its real purpose is to "be used by private industry to start new companies and new efforts,” according to Petricoin.

"There is Mason research that is attractive to private industries," Petricoin said, "and they can tap into this pot of money to partner with [the university] to do some specific research project."

According to Petricoin, a company would make a project proposal that would then be vetted by the VHBRC board of directors on a case-by-case basis.

According to an article published in “Virginia Business,” the Board of Director's has 13 total members. Each of the five universities has a seat on the board, alongside two members from life sciences companies and one from the venture capitalist community. The five remaining members were designated by the Virginia secretary of Commerce and Trade.

Petricoin considers the new organization as a means of economic growth for Virginia, a sentiment shared by Virginia State Governor Bob Mcdonald.

"Bioscience is on the forefront right now, and [research and development] investments have a tremendous economic impact in total jobs and increased annual state tax revenue,” Gov. Bob McDonnell said in an announcement.

"The [governor's office] thought that this was a great area to go into," Petricoin said. "Without them [the organization] would have never seen the light of day."

The VHBRC also offers the opportunity for faculty members to collaborate with local companies in their research efforts.

"Any faculty can go out and as they start to talk to local companies, there will be potentially beneficial scientific relationships that can be formed," Petricoin said.

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