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President's Corner: A Partnership With Big Potential

Through the years, Old Dominion has engaged in successful partnerships with both Eastern Virginia Medical School and Sentara Healthcare. A new development magnifies our possibilities - and the benefits for Virginia.

Gov. Northam and the General Assembly have approved the establishment of the Hampton Roads Biomedical Research Consortium and provided funding beginning this fiscal year. The consortium's goal is to strengthen the relationship among the three institutions and to jump-start more research collaboration.

With input from all three partners, the consortium recently hired Kevin Leslie as executive director. Kevin previously was the associate director of VCU Ventures, a division at Virginia Commonwealth University that helps faculty and staff members launch startup companies with an eye to innovation in health care.

He received his Ph.D. in biophysics from VCU and has also worked as a senior scientist in the private sector. Kevin knows the biotech ecosystem in the commonwealth, and he's well-versed in sources of funding opportunities, both on the public and private sides.

Under Kevin's direction, the consortium stands poised to build the biotech sector in Hampton Roads and catalyze more innovation. The state has commissioned a study to recommend the optimal structure for our partnership. But for now, the consortium's first order of business is to mine the region's vast collection of health care data - stripped of personal information. The resulting algorithms and applications could produce extensive benefits for our region, including wearable devices to monitor health and more pinpointed recommendations for patients.

Old Dominion's faculty will enjoy increased opportunities to collaborate with colleagues at EVMS and Sentara and will become more competitive for NIH grants. Graduate students also will gain valuable experience in projects that will strengthen their dissertations and their scientific potential after they leave ODU. The region as a whole could see a big economic-development boost.

I thank Morris Foster, the University's vice president of research, for doggedly moving this initiative forward. The consortium's ultimate goal is to generate improvements in health care in Hampton Roads, making it more efficient and less expensive while bettering the health of our population. That's a win for everyone.

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