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Fralin Biomedical Research Institute officially opens $90 million addition

Fralin Biomedical Research Institute officially opens $90 million addition

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State and local officials gathered Tuesday for the grand opening of the newest building at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute in Roanoke.

The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the 139,000-square-foot addition, which opened to researchers and staff last summer. The building, located at 4 Riverside Circle on the Virginia Tech Carilion Health Sciences campus, will accommodate at least 400 more researchers, students and staff.

“Today was worth the wait,” Carilion CEO Nancy Agee said. “We’re putting Roanoke on the map for biosciences.”

The $90-million building houses advanced MRI and CT imaging machines, 3D printers, and microscopes that can see down to the nanometer. One researcher said the microscope he uses for his research costs as much as two Lamborghinis — about $750,000.

Researchers are using this technology to study brain formation, cancer cells, heart disease and memory.

The facility is also home to Virginia Tech’s molecular diagnostics lab, which has processed more than 160,000 COVID-19 tests since April 2020. The facility also holds the Virginia Tech Animal Cancer Care and Research Center to provide medical, surgical and radiation oncology treatments to cats and dogs.

Rachana Somaiya, a graduate student at the institute, said she has been studying how circuits in the brain form and how that could connect to solutions for brain-centered diseases. She said her parents, who live in India, never got the opportunity to attend college and she is grateful to be able to study at the institute and in its newest facility.

“I feel thankful to be a scientist studying the stunning complexity of the brain,” Somaiya said. “It’s because this institute gave me a chance for quality education and more importantly, a welcoming environment to conduct extraordinary scientific research.”

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Alison Graham covers Roanoke County and Salem news. She’s originally from Indianapolis and a graduate of Indiana University.

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