Public healthSRI opens Virginia facility

Published 10 November 2009

SRI International opened a new facility for its Center for Advanced Drug Research (CADRE); scientists at the new facility will work on developing vaccines, more quickly diagnosing infections, and developing new treatments

Where there is a security need, there is a business opportunity.From silicone valley to the Shenandoah Valley, comes a renowned research firm that specializes in fighting disease. Virginia governor Tim Kaine helped cut the ribbon the other day on the nearly $20 million dollar headquarters for SRI International.

Inside the facility near Harrisonburg, two dozen of scientists from all over the world fight tuberculosis, West Nile virus, even bioterrorism. “Our staff here speak 15 different languages fluently, and several others not quite so fluently,” said SRI vice president Walter Moos, “In addition to all the science that they speak.”

NBC29-WVIR-TV reports that It is the language of aggressive bioscience. It translates to developing vaccines, more quickly diagnosing infections, and developing new treatments. “Some of these are rare and neglected diseases,” said Moos, “like tuberculosis, rare and neglected in the U.S. But tuberculosis affects more than a third of the world’s population, two billion people.”

The governor welcomed SRI into its new 40,000 square foot headquarters, and predicts more employers will want to be nearby. “SRI is a global brand of innovation that has touched virtually every area of life in this country, and in this world,” said Kaine. “How proud we are to have them here.”

SRI had been nearby for three years, sharing laboratory and office space with James Madison university, recalls Krishna Kodukula, director of SRI’s Shenandoah Valley facility. “Toward the end of our stay at JMU we ran out of space. So now this gives us a lot more space, and a lot more facilities in that regard, and also we can expand the way we would like to expand.”

That expansion will mean more jobs, eventually 100 scientists in the Rockingham county headquarters. SRI says the Rockingham county location puts them close to partners like JMU, UVA, and Virginia Tech, as well as key federal agencies in Washington.

The new facility will house SRI’s Center for Advanced Drug Research (CADRE). Recent CADRE projects at SRI Shenandoah Valley include:

— Research to address the problem of antibiotic resistance in tuberculosis, supported by a Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

— Discovery of a novel insecticide that targets infection-carrying mosquitoes. The preventive treatment could be widely used as a decontaminant of vehicles, homes, and public places.

—Development of rapid and sensitive diagnostics for aspergillosis, an invasive fungal disease that is one of the most common causes of infection for people undergoing chemotherapy.