SRI International opens research center in Virginia

SRI International opened a new facility for its Center for Advanced Drug Research, where scientists will work on developing vaccines, more quickly diagnosing infections and developing new treatments.

From California’s Silicone Valley to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, comes a research and technology development organization that specializes in fighting disease, according to the Homeland Security Newswire.

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine helped cut the ribbon Nov. 9 on the nearly $20 million, 40,000-square-foot research and development building will house headquarters for SRI International Shenandoah Valley.

Inside the facility near Harrisonburg, about 25 scientists from all over the world fight tuberculosis, West Nile virus and even bioterrorism.

“Our staff here speak 15 different languages fluently, and several others not quite so fluently,” SRI vice president Walter Moos said, “in addition to all the science that they speak.”

 “Some of these are rare and neglected diseases,” Moos said, “like tuberculosis, rare and neglected in the U.S. But tuberculosis affects more than a third of the world’s population, two billion people.”

SRI and community partners from the commonwealth of Virginia, Rockingham County, the city of Harrisonburg, James Madison University and the Shenandoah Valley Partnership established SRI Shenandoah Valley in December 2006, and broke ground on the new building the following year, in December 2007. During the construction, SRI Shenandoah Valley was housed on the JMU campus.

“Toward the end of our stay at JMU we ran out of space,” said Krishna Kodukula, executive director of CADRE in SRI's Biosciences Division. “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 location puts them close to partners including JMU, the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech, as well as key federal agencies in Washington.

Under the leadership Kodukula, researchers at SRI Shenandoah Valley are focused on developing life-saving treatments that can reach people globally, particularly in the areas of infectious and neglected diseases.

CADRE extends SRI's expertise in drug discovery and development and biomedical sciences with a new proteomics laboratory to develop vaccines, diagnostics, and therapies. Proteomics is the study of protein structure and function, helping scientists better understand the causes of disease, which can streamline drug development and make personalized medicine more cost-effective.