Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tech, Wake To Collaborate on Animal Regenerative Medicine

The Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine has entered into a research agreement with the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C. They signed a memorandum of understanding to form the Virginia Tech/Wake Forest Center for Veterinary Regenerative Medicine (CVRM).

The veterinary college and the institute for regenerative medicine, both leaders in their fields, will engage in ongoing collaborations in translational research in regenerative medicine through the new center. The agreement facilitates the application of cutting-edge regenerative treatments to both human and animal patients.

“Translational research” focuses on turning the biological discoveries of scientists and clinical researchers into innovative treatments for the benefit of patients. “Regenerative medicine” specifically refers to the creation of tissues and organs in the laboratory that can be used to repair or replace damaged tissues in living patients and the use of cell therapies to restore the function or organs and tissues. As part of the collaboration, clients at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital may have the option to enter their pets into clinical trials, giving them access to cutting edge technology unavailable elsewhere.

The agreement will enable the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine to evaluate new regenerative medicine techniques in spontaneously occurring animal diseases that can be models for human disease. This collaboration with the veterinary college will allow researchers at Wake Forest to more quickly assess the efficacy of regenerative treatments to remedy clinical conditions and facilitate their application to human medicine.

Researchers at the veterinary college believe the agreement represents a win-win for both animals and humans. “The CVRM is a tremendous opportunity to provide new medical alternatives for animals, including loved household pets, while generating scientific knowledge that can save and transform human lives,” says Roger Avery, senior associate dean of research and graduate studies at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.

Current research focuses on chronic kidney disease in cats, which are being treated in an effort to induce kidney regeneration and restore renal function. Additionally, a stem cell approach is being applied to dogs with spay-induced induced incontinence, a reoccurring problem in spayed female dogs.

Muscle stem cells, placed into the neck of the dog’s bladder, may help to strengthen the bladder muscle and cure the condition. Other collaborative projects including canine and bovine induced pluripotentent cells, rapid pathogen detection, wound healing in horses, and canine cardiomyopathy are in start-up mode.

Willard H. Eyestone, research assistant professor of reproductive biology and biotechnology at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, will act as lead faculty member at the veterinary college and the liaison to Wake Forest in the collaboration. Dr. J. Koudy Williams, professor of pathology and surgical sciences at Wake Forest, will serve as the lead faculty member from the institute.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tech's Center for the Arts Interior Design Released

Details for the interior of the new $89 million Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech are beginning to emerge with drawings available here. Simply click on any of the images and it will enlarge.

According to a Tech press release, the devil is in the details:

The selection of the fixed seating in the performance hall, for example, included the examination of not only comfort, but also acoustic qualities, repeated-use wear and silence of their moving parts. Earlier in the design process, it was determined that the depth of the first balcony negatively affected acoustics and recommended that 40 seats be removed from the original 1,300 planned for the space. The maximum number of seats, and therefore tickets that could be sold, was reduced to 1,260 without hesitation.

Arup, a global engineering and acoustics firm with corporate offices in New York City, is leading the team on matters of acoustics. Arup has worked with major institutions from the Sydney Opera House to the Louvre and the Guggenheim. The material, called "skin," covering the ceilings and walls of the performance theater has been tested and specifically selected for its acoustic qualities. Everything in the performance theater, from the shape of the theatre boxes and balconies to the positioning of lights, has been chosen for its acoustic qualities.

The visual arts exhibition galleries has put emphasis on versatility. The galleries are being designed and constructed to support not only traditional two-dimensional and three-dimensional art, but also virtual, digital, live, and performance art. Moveable walls, a variety of lighting options, room darkening capabilities, and more will make these galleries an adaptive space for visual arts.

Laboratories and studios are also under development for the center's Institute for Creativity, Arts and Technology. A 3,000-square-foot creative performance lab is part of the center's spaces for the activities of the institute.

Spaces dedicated to the institute will be housed in the part of the center that is Shultz Hall. The Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, which has for years taken most of its meals in the un-air conditioned Shultz Hall, will eat in a new, state-of-the-art dining center on Turner Street. The new dining center will be open to all and will also provide some space for academic programs of the university.

"With input and guidance from a steering committee, a building committee and numerous groups with technical expertise, which are composed of deans, department heads, faculty, administrators, and graduate students from across campus, I believe we are making sound choices for the Center for the Arts," says Director Ruth Waalkes, "Choices that will translate into a unique world-class center, where performance arts, visual arts, and technology intersect."

The $89 million Center for the Arts will open in fall 2013, but has already begun co-presenting programs. The next Center for the Arts co-sponsored event is the nine-time Grammy Award-winning Emerson String Quartet with the Department of Music on Jan. 28 at the Lyric. Then, on Feb. 12, the center presents the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra virtuosi group with the New River Valley Friends of the Roanoke Symphony at the Squires Recital Salon. In June and July, the center will present the Vocal Arts and Music Festival (formerly Viva Virginia).

Monday, January 10, 2011

Goodman, Dixon Hughes To Merge

Goodman & Company, which has a significant presence in Roanoke, and Dixon Hughes plan to merge their firms and affiliated entities March 1.

Headquartered in Charlotte, the combined firm will be known as Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP. With more than 1,700 people in 30 offices in 11 states and D.C., Dixon Hughes Goodman will be the largest certified public accounting firm based in the Southern U.S. and the 13th largest in the nation.

Goodman & Company will retain all of its existing Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. offices, and will seek to expand its presence within this footprint as part of the merger. Thomas H. Wilson, Managing Partner of Goodman & Company, will become Deputy Chairman and Chief Operating Officer of the new firm. Charles Edgar Sams Jr., chairman of Dixon Hughes, will continue to serve as chairman of the new company, and Kenneth M. Hughes, CEO of Dixon Hughes, will also remain in that position.

“This is a tailor-made fit that will benefit the firm, our staff and most importantly, our clients,” says Wilson. “Both organizations will gain increased industry expertise and depth and see new geographic opportunities for growth. Clients will have broadened access to capital networks and industry best practices, while our employees will see more robust training options, increased opportunities for industry specialization and greater mobility between offices.”

“Both firms have a strong affinity for providing exceptional service and in-depth industry knowledge on behalf of our clients,” said Sams. “This combination will create a larger platform in which we can expand our geographical reach throughout the mid-Atlantic, share core technical resources and anticipate the needs of our clients. We are enthusiastic as we move forward over the coming months.”

The merger will create a dramatically larger geographic footprint with offices located in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, D.C. and West Virginia. The firm will conduct business in all 50 states.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Cantal To Locate in Botetourt, Bring 40 Jobs

Canatal Steel USA Inc., which develops steel structures for commercial buildings, has opened its first U.S. operation in Botetourt County. U.S. customers comprise about 95 percent of the Canadian company's business.

“With so much of our business in the United States, we were looking to increase efficiency, reduce costs and streamline our operations,” says Charles Trent, controller of Canatal Steel USA. “Botetourt County puts us closer to our customers and offers affordable operating costs and an experienced, motivated work force.”

Canatal Industries fabricates and installs steel beams primarily for commercial, residential, institutional, and industrial building construction. Located in the former O’Neal Metals Building, the company will initially invest more than $1 million in facility and equipment. Canatal plans to create up to 40 full-time jobs by April 2011 and could create as many as 100 by 2012. Jobs will range from welders and fitters to eventually office staff, estimators and engineers.

The company says it’s seeing an uptick in orders as the economy improves. “We have aggressive growth plans in Botetourt and look forward to being an integral part of the Roanoke Valley,” Trent says. Canatal considered locations outside of the Commonwealth of Virginia before selecting Botetourt County.

“Canatal’s decision to locate in Botetourt adds to the international roster of businesses in the county,” says Billy Martin, chairman of the Botetourt County Board of Supervisors. “Now, Canada joins Australia, Austria, Belgium, Japan, Mexico, and Greece doing business from Botetourt.”

“The international flavor of businesses throughout the Roanoke region reflects the region’s global competitiveness,” saysBeth Doughty, executive director of the Roanoke Regional Partnership.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Montgomery Chamber Selects VCOM Best

The Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine – Virginia Campus was the recipient of the area’s “Business of the Year” award by the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce at the December Annual Chamber Dinner. VCOM was one of nine organizations nominated for this award which recognizes community involvement; civic and charitable contributions; innovation: and economic impact to the Montgomery County, Virginia community.

Since its founding in 2002, VCOM, a not-for-profit business, has graduated over 600 physicians and employed hundreds of faculty and staff members. Currently enrollment is over 720 doctoral and 30 post-baccalaureate students. VCOM has grown from one to four buildings, including a research building and a simulation and technology building with state-of-the-art equipment for educational instruction and evaluation.

While much of the country is facing a physician workforce shortage, the addition of VCOM has guaranteed a medical student population that, along with the additional four medical schools should meet Virginias needs. The economic impact of the medical school to the local economy is noteworthy.

The total economic impact of VCOM’s operations is at over $210 million annually with direct expenditures in excess of $38 million. As a private, accredited college, VCOM has never required state funds for operations or construction, resulting in no cost to the taxpayer. In addition to academically preparing strong physician graduates, VCOM also contributes to the community by providing a summer enrichment program for high school students; health education to middle and high school students and other community groups ranging from free clinic patients to AARP members; by fundraising for those in need; and providing patient care as part of the clinical education program.

According to Dr. Jim Wolfe, VCOM’s president, “We were thrilled to hear we were selected by the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce for this Award, particularly knowing that there were many other quality organizations in this category. We are pleased to have had a positive impact on the region and we look forward to continued growth and additional contributions to the community”

Whole Antibiotics Entering Our Water, Tech Finds

Virginia Tech Researcher Amy Pruden was part of the team that studies antibiotics in our water.

When an antibiotic is consumed, researchers have learned that up to 90 percent passes through a body without metabolizing. This means the drugs can leave the body almost intact through normal bodily functions.

In the case of agricultural areas, excreted antibiotics can then enter stream and river environments through a variety of ways, including discharges from animal feeding operations, fish hatcheries, and nonpoint sources such as the flow from fields where manure or biosolids have been applied.

Water filtered through wastewater treatment plants may also contain used antibiotics. Consequently, these discharges become “potential sources of antibiotic resistance genes,” says Amy Pruden, a National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award recipient, and an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech. “The presence of antibiotics, even at sub-inhibitory concentrations, can stimulate bacterial metabolism and thus contribute to the selection and maintenance of antibiotic resistance genes,” Pruden explains. “Once they are present in rivers, antibiotic resistance genes are capable of being transferred among bacteria, including pathogens, through horizontal gene transfer.”

The World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control recognize antibiotic resistance “as a critical health challenge of our time,” Pruden writes in a paper published in a 2010 issue of Environmental Science and Technology. Pruden says reducing the spread of antibiotic resistance is a critical measure needed to prolong the effectiveness of currently available antibiotics.

This is important since “new drug discovery can no longer keep pace with emerging antibiotic-resistant infections,” Pruden says. Pruden who has developed the concept of antibiotic resistance genes as environmental pollutants has an international reputation in applied microbial ecology, environmental remediation, and environmental reservoirs of antimicrobial resistance. In her work outlined in the "Environmental Science and Technology" article, she and her co-authors identified specific patterns of antibiotic resistance gene occurrence in a Colorado watershed.

Identification of these patterns represents a major step in being able to discriminate between agricultural and wastewater treatment plant sources of these genes in river environments. They assert that such unique patterns of antibiotic resistance gene occurrence represent promising molecular signatures that may then be used as tracers of specific manmade sources. In their study they identified three wastewater treatment plant sites, six animal feeding operation locations, and three additional locations along a pristine region of the Poudre River, in an upstream section located in the Rocky Mountains.

They compared the frequency of detection of 11 sulfonamide and tetracycline antibiotic resistance genes. Their findings showed detection of one particular antibiotic resistance gene in 100 percent of the treatment plant and animal feeding operations, but only once in the clean section of the Poudre River.

As they are able to differentiate between human and animal sources of the antibiotic resistance genes, Pruden and her colleagues believe they can “shed light on areas where intervention can be most effective in helping to reduce the spread of these contaminants through environmental matrixes such as soils, groundwater, surface water, and sediments.

“This study advances the recognition of antibiotic resistance genes as sources to impacted environments, taking an important step in the identification of the dominant processes of the spreading and transport of antibiotic resistance genes.” The Colorado Water Resources Research Institute and a U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Experiment Station provided funding for this study in addition to Pruden’s NSF award.

Free Money for Manufacturers: Apply by Feb. 8

Southwest Virginia companies in the transportation equipment-manufacturing sector may be eligible for grant money--but Virginia Tech needs to hear from those companies by Feb. 8. The money is coming to Southwest Virginia under a $1.67 million project from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Companies involved in transportation equipment manufacturing and their suppliers may be available for grants totaling about $1 million. Projects will focus on product development, process improvement, and green technologies. Virginia Tech faculty members, most from the College of Engineering, provide technical assistance.

About 20 projects will be funded in the 14-county corridor from Bristol and beyond Roanoke, extending almost to Natural Bridge. For more information about the initiative and eligibility requirements, call Robert Taylor, director, Center for High Performance Manufacturing at Virginia Tech, (540) 231-6201, or e-mail the center here.

“What companies should consider applying for the grants?” asks John Provo, interim director of the Virginia Tech Office of Economic Development. “Companies that could benefit from the application of Virginia Tech’s research and technical expertise to problems or opportunities in their businesses. In many instances, these projects will require human assets or equipment not readily available to the company.” Job creation is the goal of the project, aimed to bolster an industry that still employs 8,000 workers in Southwest Virginia. The project, called the Western Virginia Transportation Equipment Manufacturing Competitiveness Initiative, involves partners such as the New River Valley Planning District Commission, the Mount Rogers Planning District Commission, and the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission. Also involved is Volvo Trucks North America, New River Valley Plant.

A series of informational meetings are scheduled starting Monday so companies can learn more about the initiative and how to get involved:
  • On Jan. 11 from 10 to 11 a.m. at the New River Valley Planning District Commission located at 6580 Valley Center Drive in Radford;
  • Jan. 12 from 3 to 4 p.m. at the Mount Rogers Planning District Commission located at 1021 Terrace Drive in Marion; and
  • Jan. 13 from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Roanoke Valley Alleghany Regional Commission at 313 Luck Ave. in Roanoke.