'Silicon Valley of the East Coast'?
Silicon Valley's SRI to Build Drug Research Center in Virginia's Valley with JMU
Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, announcing Dec. 14 that Silicon Valley-based SRI International will be building its new drug-research facility in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, said the presence of James Madison University was key to attracting SRI, one of the world's leaders in independent research and technology development.
"If there is a 'but for' cause of this, it certainly is JMU," Kaine said of SRI's partnership with James Madison, Rockingham County and the City of Harrisonburg to create the Center for Advanced Drug Research, or CADRE, in Virginia's Rockingham County. "We worked to put a deal together, but I'm not sure there would have been interest in the deal had it not been for the very, very strong beginnings of a relationship that had developed between SRI and JMU.
"SRI liked what they saw (at JMU), not only in research capacity, but in the model of research that JMU has used where they have really focused on cross-disciplinary research," the governor added. "First and foremost, CADRE’s presence in Virginia will catapult the Commonwealth’s position as a biotech powerhouse."
A local legislator attending the governor's announcement in Richmond said he hoped that the SRI partnership would mark "the beginning of the Shenandoah Valley becoming the Silicon Valley for the East Coast." Added state Delegate Steve Landes: "JMU is the reason that SRI really is looking at the Shenandoah Valley and looking at expanding research in the Commonwealth of Virginia."
"Our partnership with SRI International really is a marriage that's brought about by a common commitment to collaboration in how we operate and to innovation," JMU President Linwood H. Rose said. "Those are really the two key components. They represent what we try to do at JMU on a daily basis, and this decision really represents a validation of the scholarship and talent that exists amongst our faculty and our students at JMU."
SRI will be the cornerstone and first partner for Rockingham County's 365-acre Center for Research and Technology, located north of Harrisonburg on U.S. Route 11 and two miles from Interstate 81. SRI's CADRE will be built on a 25-to-40-acre campus, with initial plans for two state-of-the-art pharmaceutical research labs.
SRI, which also has a facility in Arlington, Va., near Washington, D.C., plans to add other high-technology programs at the Rockingham County site in such areas as biothreats to homeland security, engineering, nanotechnology, energy, information technology and education.
In the interim, JMU will provide lab space for SRI.
"James Madison University has been a great partner in the development of this project," Kaine said, "and JMU will accelerate the development of a state-of-the-art biolab space and lease it to SRI. Once SRI moves into the new facility, JMU will retain the biolab and its students can take advantage of the new laboratory space."
Kaine said the project is expected to create more than 100 new jobs with an average annual compensation of $85,000. The project's "most exciting part," the governor said, would be the spinoff businesses created from CADRE's research and practical applications — dividends that the nonprofit SRI has a long history of creating.
"The project will not only bring research opportunities for our universities, but also spinoff employment opportunities to attract and retain college graduates in Virginia," Kaine said. "These spinoff companies, created as a result of CADRE's operations in the Commonwealth, will provide for additional revenue, additional employment and will help further strengthen and diversify the economy in the Shenandoah Valley."
Dr. Curtis Carlson, president and CEO of SRI International, said the new partnership in the Shenandoah Valley will "make Virginia a magnet for new investments."
The Commonwealth of Virginia appropriated $3 million in fiscal year 2006 to initiate the project, and the governor will submit a funding request to Virginia's General Assembly for FY2008 for $12 million of a $19 million commitment to SRI.
"When we look at the SRI story, at what SRI has done in its really spectacular history since the 1950s, we know that this is an investment that is going to be one of the easiest investment decisions the Commonwealth ever makes in terms of its likely payoff," the governor said, adding that SRI has a "legacy of ground-breaking contributions," such as the computer mouse, malaria treatments and significant cancer research.
"This ground-breaking project is about so much more than the number of jobs and the salaries," Kaine said. "It will transform Virginia's research efforts at, not just James Madison University, but at numerous universities, and enable us to realize our potential in attracting grants and developing new products and valuable techniques that can be commercialized, put to market."
SRI International, founded as the Stanford Research Institute in 1946, is a nonprofit research institute that performs client-sponsored research and development for government agencies, commercial businesses and private foundations. In addition to conducting contract R&D, SRI licenses its technologies, forms strategic partnerships and creates spinoff companies. SRI also brings its innovations to the marketplace by licensing its intellectual property and by creating new ventures. Based in Menlo Park, Calif., SRI operates facilities in other locations throughout the United States and Asia.
James Madison is a public university with a fall 2006 enrollment of 16,970 students, including 15,653 degree-seeking undergraduates. JMU also has 30 master's degree and five doctoral programs. "U.S.News & World Report" has ranked JMU as the South's top public, master's-level university for 13 consecutive years. This fall, the newsmagazine's "2007 America's Best Colleges" guide also recognized the university as one of the top 35 colleges in the nation for excellence in offering extensive experience in research and creative projects to its undergraduates.
In the afternoon of Dec. 14, Michael A. Breeden, chairman of the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors, and SRI's Carlson held a news conference in the Festival Convention and Student Center at JMU to further discuss the new research center. President Rose also welcomed to campus officials of the City of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County and members of the local legislative delegation and representatives of area economic development organizations. The news conference may be viewed on the JMU Web at http://media.jmu.edu/; look for "12/14 - Press conference: Celebrating a Partnership in Research (video)."
Published December 2006 by JMU Media Relations