Here’s a round-up of news briefs from around Southwest and Southside. Send yours for possible inclusion to

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Roanoke Valley libraries drop fines

The Roanoke Valley Libraries Consortium, consisting of libraries in Botetourt County, Roanoke, Salem and Roanoke County, have announced that effective July 1 there will no longer be fines for overdue library materials at any RVL branch. In addition, fines accrued prior to that date will be canceled. Patrons will be charged, however, for items that are lost or damaged while checked out. 

“This is our way of removing any reading barriers,” states Sheila Umberger, director of Roanoke Public Libraries, in a statement. “Going fine-free will allow more people to enjoy our materials. It is  imperative to create an environment that is welcoming, rather than punitive.”  

During the COVID-19 pandemic, all Roanoke-area libraries suspended late fees for overdue items. This decision was made due to the difficulty patrons had in returning items to the libraries, which were closed or offered limited services, and with the realization that many people in the workforce were temporarily or permanently laid off. 

Public libraries, both locally and nationally, have reported success following the elimination of late fee fines, according to a release from the libraries. In many libraries across the country, the elimination of late fees has  proven to generate increased visits, higher circulation, and an uptick in the number of library cards issued. 

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Roanoke-based Chorda receives grant

The Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation has notified Chorda Pharma that it will receive a grant from the Commonwealth Commercialization Fund for the Commercialization of a Non-Opioid Topical Analgesic. The $75,000 award will be used to help fund the testing, pilot manufacturing and marketing of Capsadyn, which offers relief for patients suffering from chronic pain, according to a release from Chorda.

Chorda Pharma was founded to address the growing incidence of arthritis, diabetic neuropathy, sports injuries and other ailments among individuals requiring long-term treatment to relieve pain.

Capsadyn will be Chorda Pharma’s first analgesic medication. It will be available as an over-the-counter topical cream and will provide an alternative to corticosteroids as well as other OTC medications, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and acetaminophen.

“This award will help us accelerate the entry of Capsadyn into the growing market for the safe and effective treatment of chronic pain,” said Victor Iannello, Chorda’s CEO, in a statement. “We expect to launch the sale of Capsadyn early in 2023. We are honored to receive this support from the Commonwealth.” 

Chorda Pharma is an early-stage pharmaceutical company that is developing a pipeline of opioid-free drugs to manage pain. Chorda Pharma was founded by Rick Carliss, an assistant professor of biology at Radford University.

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Jackie Lackey. Courtesy of Verge.

Verge names VP of programming

Verge has named Jackie Lackey to the team as vice president of programs

Verge describes itself as “a collaborative strategic alliance established to grow the region’s innovation economy,  technology and life sciences sectors, and the supporting professional communities. It aligns the  strengths and programming efforts of the Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council and  the Regional Accelerator and Mentoring Program.”

In her role, Lackey will help develop programming opportunities to create a stronger technology funding pipeline, jobs and talent investment, enhanced visibility for partners, and lead conversations in the industry.  

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Norton receives federal grant, loan for police car

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development has awarded a grant of $33,000 and a loan of $27,000, totaling $60,000, to the city of Norton to purchase a new law enforcement vehicle, according to a release from Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem.

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Forest Service awards funding for projects at Sherando, Virginia Creeper Trail, Roaring Run and Comers Creek

The USDA Forest Service will invest $574,900 into four backlogged maintenance projects in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. These investments are part of the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund, established by the Great American Outdoors Act, and will be undertaken in fiscal year 2022, which begins Oct. 1, according to a release from the Forest Service.

This year’s funding will invest in multiple-year projects at Sherando Lake Recreation Area in Augusta County and the Virginia Creeper Trail on the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. Other projects funded include replacing the road bridge that accesses the Roaring Run Recreation Area in Botetourt County and replacing the Comers Creek Appalachian Trail bridge in Smyth County.