Virginia Tech’s biomedical research institute, the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, has grown from a small vision to a thriving hub of innovation and collaboration. With state-of-the-art infrastructure and a team of talented scientists, the institute is making significant strides in biomedical research.
Led by founding CEO Michael Friedlander, the institute has attracted world-class innovators and thought leaders who are committed to finding answers to important health-related questions. The researchers at the institute span various disciplines, including behavioral, biological, computational sciences, as well as engineering.
One notable group at the institute is the Center for Research on Health Behaviors, led by Director Warren Bickel. Bickel and his colleagues focus on developing new approaches to help individuals improve decision-making and adopt healthy behaviors related to smoking, overeating, or substance use disorders. They also study the impact of policies such as nicotine tax on purchasing behaviors.
Another prominent researcher at the institute is Zhen Yan, director of the Exercise Medicine Research Center. Yan’s work revolves around studying the mechanisms of exercise and its role in preventing and treating diseases. His contributions have earned him international recognition with prestigious awards.
Read Montague is another member of the research institute’s founding faculty who has made significant contributions. He has developed technology to measure brain chemicals in patients with Parkinson’s disease and seizures. His research aims to provide insights into childhood epilepsy and neurodegenerative disorders.
The Fralin Biomedical Research Institute boasts state-of-the-art infrastructure across its three buildings on Virginia Tech Carilion Health Sciences and Technology campus in Roanoke. The facilities include specialized equipment for studying human metabolic rates, investigating food preferences linked to obesity-related diseases, conducting biosafety level 3 research with infectious agents, among others.
The impact of the researchers extends beyond Roanoke through collaborations with other institutions such as Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus in Alexandria and partnerships with clinical partners like Children’s National Hospital in Washington, DC, Wake Forest Cancer Center in North Carolina, and the Barrow Neurological Institute in Arizona.
The institute also plays a crucial role in academic programs, offering opportunities for undergraduate and postgraduate students interested in healthcare and translational biomedical research. The Integrated Health Sciences and Research Program provides an immersive experience for undergraduates, while the Postgraduate Program in Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health has received recognition for its innovation.
In terms of research accomplishments, the institute has secured significant external grants totaling $43 million in the most recent fiscal year. These funds have enabled researchers to tackle pressing health challenges such as cancer, brain disorders, cardiovascular disease, children’s health, obesity, and addiction. The faculty’s publications have also made an impact with over 700 peer-reviewed articles published in high-impact biomedical and health science journals.
Some notable discoveries include Alexei Morozov’s identification of a brain pathway that facilitates coordinated group movement in animals. Sharon Ramey’s research highlights the link between childhood stress and inflammation during pregnancy. And Jennifer Munson’s work on glioblastoma microenvironment offers insights into tumor recurrence and treatment strategies.
Patently, Virginia Tech’s Fralin Biomedical Research Institute has transformed from a small vision to a thriving center of excellence in biomedical research. With its world-class scientists, cutting-edge infrastructure, innovative academic programs, and impactful discoveries, it is poised to continue making significant contributions to advancing human health and quality of life.