Building a Regional

Innovation and Commercialization Cluster

September 2022 | Issue 5

VCU is a university on the move. And that move is powered by research.


Most notably, in fiscal year 2022 year we are expected to reach an institutional record, marking more than $400 million in sponsored research from government agencies and outside organizations. That’s a 47% increase over the last five years, and showcases a university with growing national distinction.


And this summer, the U.S. Economic Development Administration said it would give nearly $53 million to a coalition of public and private sector stakeholders in the Richmond-Petersburg region, including VCU. This coalition, the Alliance for Building Better Medicine, is developing an advanced pharmaceutical manufacturing and research and development cluster here, centered in the Virginia Bio+Tech park (where our headquarters is located). The goal: address the nation’s pressing need for quality, affordable, essential medicines. With additional funds, the total pool to create this pharmaceutical cluster is more than $66.5 million.


The world is watching, too: this month, VCU was ranked among the 30 most innovative public universities in the country by U.S. News & World Report. So what does all this movement mean for our technology-transfer team?


In a word: Collaboration. With industry leaders as collaborative partners, we can ensure VCU researchers are spending time generating transformative intellectual property that people actually need to enrich their lives, optimize health, support more sustainable environments, and create a more just and equitable society.


Our hope is these moves support a critical mass of companies and entrepreneurs working in biotech and life sciences in the Richmond and Tri-Cities region, and inspire others to move here. At VCU Innovation Gateway, it is our responsibility to provide those organizations with opportunities to engage, collaborate, and give them the support they need to grow and construct an innovation ecosystem that accelerates commercialization in Central Virginia.


Finally, our own efforts to create startups from university-created IP are paying off, too. This year, we have founded 10 new startups based on VCU inventions. Now we are working on finding business leaders with experience who can partner with our inventors to help these startups grow. If you are, or you know of, an entrepreneur who is capable of commercializing our most promising IP, reach out to me. Enjoy this issue of Launchpad.

Ivelina Metcheva, Ph.D., MBA

Assistant Vice President for Innovation

VCU Innovation Gateway

VCU inventor with an invention ready to launch? Apply to the Fall 2022 Commercialization Fund from Innovation Gateway. Start here.

National Virtual Reality in Healthcare

Conference at VCU

This week, VCU hosted the inaugural VR and Healthcare Technology Transfer Conference. Keynotes included Stanford University neuroscientist Walter Greenleaf and VR pioneer Carolina Cruz-Neira. Presenters showed how virtual and extended reality (VR/XR) applications are being used in healthcare to better detect, diagnose, and treat medical conditions and improve quality of life. Among the many speakers were physicians and researchers at VCU who are involved in VR/XR apps. Pictured here discussing their various efforts in the field is VCU's Dr. Lauren Siff, Carrie Peterson, James Thomas, and Nicholas Thomson. We'll have presentations and articles from the event on our website in coming days.

VCU breaks record

with more than $400M for sponsored research

This month, VCU announced the highest sponsored funding figures in its history, continuing its growing national distinction as a top urban, public research university. The institutional record of over $400 million for fiscal year 2022 marks a more than 47% increase over five years ago, and a 10% increase since last year. Here's more.

  • Plus: VCU was ranked among the Top 30 most innovative public universities in the nation.

VCU-created Nerve Tape device gets FDA Clearance

This summer, the FDA cleared Nerve Tape, a suture-less solution for surgical repair of transected nerves created by VCU orthopaedic surgeon Jonathan Isaacs, MD. The step means Nerve Tape’s development partner, Atlanta's BioCircuit Technologies, can market the product in anticipation of the first human use in 2023.

Check out Nerve Tape.

To fight cancer recurrence, VCU experts go right to the source

For more than a decade, Dr. Umesh Desai has worked with VCU oncologist and researcher Dr. Bhaumik Patel on cancer stem cells that seed the disease. Their work shows promise for making chemotherapy and radiation more effective, and for targeting cancer recurrence in therapeutic and even preventive ways. Meet Dr. Desai.

Get a job in Life Sciences

Our friends at Virginia Bio are holding a job fair for employers and job seekers next week (Oct. 5) at the Omni Richmond Hotel. 

Check out some of the employers that will be on site, and register now. It's free.

Phantoms on the Brain

VCU Innovation Gateway helped Dr. Ravi Hadimani and researchers of his Biomagnetics Laboratory secure a patent for their anatomically accurate human “brain phantoms.”

The phantoms can play a valuable role in gauging the effectiveness of magnetic and electric fields generated by the coils that is placed on the top of the head to treat many brain disorders.

What are Phantoms?

View our September Webinar: All About Patents

This month, many at VCU took a virtual lunch with one of VCU Innovation Gateway's most valuable partners: Mike Whitham, a Virginia IP attorney. He offered researchers an overview of the patenting process and how to protect intellectual property. Now, we're bringing that valuable information to you! Have a watch.

More innovative stories...

Pursuing treatment for triple-negative breast cancer

If an investigational biologic that Youngman Oh, Ph.D. is developing secures FDA approvals, the antibody treatment would greatly add to a doctor’s arsenal to fight triple-negative breast cancer. The highly invasive cancer generally spreads more quickly and has fewer treatment options and worse outcomes. 

Read Dr. Oh's story (pictured here with Magdalena Morgan, Ph.D., Innovation Gateway Director of Licensing).

Quenching a thirst for targeted aerosol drug delivery systems

As a Minnesota biotech company chases life-saving applications for their research, two VCU professors press forward on their work to use aerosols — tiny particles released into the airways — to deliver advanced drugs to those in need. 

Says one: “Our work is about doing something different — changing that ballgame from having 90% of the drug wasted and 10% make it to the lungs, and flip it so that we get 90% in the lungs.”

Read more.

What is the One VCU Research Strategic Priorities Plan?

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