The Southwest Virginia Science Forum brings together university, college, and corporate researchers to develop new relationships, share ideas, and showcase inventions and discoveries. The next forum is Dec. 10 at the Fralin Life Science Institute (formerly the Biotechnology Center) on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, from 4 to 7:30 pm.

Featuring poster presentations by academic and industrial scientists and engineers, the focus has been expanded from life sciences to include biomedical engineering and nanomaterials. Scientists and other professionals are encouraged to discuss research findings and business opportunities in a relaxed, social atmosphere.

The forum is the result of collaborative efforts on the part of southwestern Virginia scientists. Jonathan Leder, technology director at Novozymes Biologicals in Salem, Va., says he saw a need for a regional science forum. After talking to other scientists and securing support from area organizations, the first Southwest Virginia Science Forum was held in March 2008.

Co-sponsored by the Virginia Biotechnology Association (VaBIO), the NewVa Corridor Technology Council (NCTC), and the Virginia Tech Fralin Life Science Institute, the event attracted more than 100 attendees from various backgrounds. Students and faculty members from six different colleges and universities were in attendance, as well as scientists from 20 companies; and 22 research posters were presented on industry and academic life science research.

Even more groups have pitched in for the December science forum. "I cannot emphasize enough that many individuals and groups have contributed to the planning and execution of this next event," said Sam English, a partner with CIE Partners LLC.

The Virginia Tech Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS) has joined NCTC, VaBIO, and Fralin to host the second Southwest Virginia Science Forum. Because of the life science, biomedical, and naomaterials focus, Fralin and ICTAS directors Dennis Dean and Roop Mahajan have provided staff and financial support, as well as the meeting site.

With nearly 160 biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and medical device companies based in Virginia, Mark Herzog, executive director of VaBIO, said that it is important to the state's economy that corporate and academic leaders share the latest research and business development opportunities. "The posters illustrating research initiatives are a great ice-breaker that helps make networking connections," he said.

According to Herzog, the December science forum will allow even more opportunities than March's event for collaboration. VaBIO is a state-wide non-profit organization that promotes the scientific and economic impact of the life sciences industry in Virginia.

NCTC is another economic development-minded nonprofit that will co-host the event. Cory Donovan, executive director, said the role of NCTC in sponsoring the science forum is "to build a community of life science and research professionals in the region," he said. "The March event generated good dialog. That's what we're looking for."

Academic researchers as well as those from industry realized benefits from the forum, said biology Professor Joe Falkinham, who presented a poster in March on antibiotic-producing bacteria and results from testing the antimicrobial dendritic amphiphiles. "Having a chance to see others' work and talk with outside folks was one of the most rewarding aspects from last year's science forum," he said.

Falkinham walked away from the event with new connections with other professionals in his field and a potential collaboration with Novozymes' research and development scientists. He said the advantage of this type of venue is reaching the companies who will help support the researchers through collaboration. "We need to get potential users of our technology to Blacksburg, to learn about Virginia Tech and opportunities provided by the university," said Falkinham.

Dean, who is also associate director of the Virginia Tech Carilion (VTC) Research Institute, said he hopes Carilion Clinic clinicians and VTC faculty members will also use this venue to exchange ideas. And he points to the importance of student participation with the poster session. "It gives students opportunities for to find jobs locally, where they are needed," he said.

Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties Inc. (VTIP) is encouraging Virginia Tech scientists and engineers to showcase the inventions that have been disclosed to VTIP, said Jackie Reed, a licensing associate at VTIP. "It is a great way to communicate licensing opportunities to companies in our region. It is not unusual to find companies right here in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center that can benefit from Virginia Tech faculty inventions or collaborative research."

Register to present a poster or to attend, or visit the technology council online. If you have questions, contact Sherri Halloran, director of VaBIO membership services, at (804) 643-6360.

This report was prepared by Hannah Kong, technical writing intern at Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties Inc.)


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