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Sep 04

Roanoke Innovation

Posted on September 4, 2018 at 1:45 PM by Whitney Slightham

Undoubtedly, most are familiar with the partnership between Carilion Clinic and Virginia Tech to form the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.  Perhaps fewer are aware that these institutions are but a couple of the anchors found in the Roanoke Innovation Corridor, or even what goes on in the Corridor.

The Roanoke Innovation Corridor is an area generally connecting the Carilion hospital complex and downtown, with Jefferson Street serving as the main connector.  In addition to Carilion Clinic and VTCRI, the Corridor’s anchor institutions include the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, Jefferson College of Health Sciences, the Regional Accelerator and Mentoring Program (RAMP), and the City of Roanoke.  In addition to these anchor institutions, there are also several supporting partners including Virginia Western Community College, the Roanoke Regional Partnership, the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council, and Radford University. 

What is it?

The Roanoke Innovation Corridor is a unique partnership that attracts top neuroscience and biomedical researchers, tech entrepreneurs, physicians, and medical students from across the world.  The Corridor offers brand new interdisciplinary training and research facilities, an award-winning healthcare system, and a vibrant network of tech entrepreneurs who inspire, collaborate, and excel.  As you can see, it is much more than simply a hospital and a medical school.  It is a place where world-class care meets world-class research.  Where doctors and other healthcare professionals are trained with an understanding of emerging research and where leading edge research is performed grounded in the realities of clinical practice.  It is also a major part of the region’s economic future as the facilities expand and as research is transferred, not only into new medical treatments, but also into new intellectual property.

What is Happening There?

The best medical care in the region takes place in the Innovation Corridor. Carilion Clinic is a medical provider with nearly 700 doctors working in no fewer than 76 specialties.  More than 1 million Virginia residents receive their care from one of 209 sites located throughout the state and headquartered in the Innovation Corridor.  Leading edge research conducted by 26 research teams with more than 300 faculty work on a wide range of research focus areas, including addiction and substance abuse; behavioral health; cardiovascular science; cancer including structural oncology, cognitive, and computational neuroscience; decision-making, developmental and translational neurobiology; human development; neurorehabilitation; immunology; and regenerative/restorative medicine.  More than 1,200 students train to become as doctors, nurses, therapists, and healthcare administrators at the Virginia Tech Carilion Medical School, Radford University, and the Jefferson College of Health Sciences.

The Corridor also includes many distinguished leaders, including Nancy Agee, President and CEO of Carilion Clinic, and currently the Chair of the American Hospital Association.  It includes Dr. Bickel, a VTCRI Professor who recently presented his research on Artificial Intelligence at the 7th International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence and the 23rd European Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Stockholm, Sweden.  It includes Jefferson College of Health Sciences’ President, Dr. Nathaniel L. Bishop, who was recently honored with the Meritorious Service Award at the 2018 annual conference for The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA).   The Corridor is home to some of the best and brightest working in biomedical research and health care.

Why Does it Matter?

One of the fastest growing segments of the economy is healthcare, which also includes some of the best paying jobs.  A good portion of the Roanoke region’s efforts are built upon success in this area – the movement from “trains to brains.” In addition to the economic benefits offered by the Innovation Corridor, there are also real health benefits coming from the research conducted here.  This research includes work on glioblastoma, the cancer that recently claimed Senator John McCain’s life, and research on heart bioelectricity, which may lead to new insight into heart arrhythmia and sudden cardiac arrest.

Where once rail yards, shuttered grain silos, and random industrial ruin set, there is now research being performed that may save lives and improve quality of life for many.  Up and down Jefferson Street there are doctors, nurses, and other professionals being trained to assist Virginians in their time of need.  On the edge of downtown sits a facility made possible through a partnership between the City, Virginia Western Community College, the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council, and others, helping businesses accelerate their success in moving research and products to market.  All of this is going on in our little corner of the world – the Corridor where Roanoke innovates!

- Bob Cowell

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