The Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center in Blacksburg. Courtesy of CRC.

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

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Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center announces first cohort for JLABS virtual residency

Acomhal Research, Qentoros and The Tiny Cargo Company have been selected as the first participants in a program linking Southwest Virginia startups with Johnson & Johnson
Innovation – JLABS.

Under a collaboration between Johnson & Johnson and the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, the companies will have virtual access to JLABS programming, resources and mentoring, as well as to the JLABS @ Washington DC site. They will have lab space at the CRC as needed.

“These companies will have a much greater chance of getting their potentially life-saving innovations to patients because of the quality of global services and mentorship that JLABS brings to the table,” Brett Malone, president and CEO of the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, said in a news release.

Acomhal Research is developing new drugs to treat primary cancer tumors more effectively, resulting in less recurrence and fewer metastases.

The Tiny Cargo Company has developed a non-immunogenic injury-targeting drug delivery platform consisting of cow’s milk-derived exosomes, including a formulation for protecting the heart after myocardial infarction.

Qentoros creates therapeutics derived from platelet-rich plasma that combat chronic infection and inflammation and promote tissue healing.

The CRC-JLABS collaboration is part of a larger project designed to bring biotech accelerator programs and shared lab space to the Roanoke-New River Valley region. New labs open this week at the CRC, and more are on track to open late next year in downtown Roanoke. [Read more about the regional efforts here.]

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Virginia Cannabis Control Authority to host town halls in Roanoke, Abingdon

The Virginia Cannabis Control Authority will hold two public town hall meetings in Roanoke and Abingdon.

The Roanoke town hall is April 19 at the Roanoke Higher Education Center. The Abingdon town hall will be held the following evening, April 20, at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center. Both events will run from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The town halls will give the public an opportunity to learn more about the authority’s mission and roles, current cannabis laws in Virginia, including changes adopted by the 2023 General Assembly, and ongoing public health and public safety initiatives. Attendees also can share their perspectives and ask questions about cannabis.

Authority board member and Southwest Virginia business owner Bette Brand will lead the town halls.

The town halls are open to the public. Anyone who wants to speak during the events is encouraged to sign up online; for the Roanoke meeting, click here, and for the Abingdon meeting click here.

The events also will stream live online; links will be available closer to the meeting dates.

Speakers will be called upon during the town hall in the order they signed up. All speakers will have a 2-minute time limit.

The Roanoke and Abingdon events are the second and third of a series of town halls the authority will hold throughout Virginia in the first part of 2023. Planning is underway for town halls in other regions of Virginia.

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$50,000 grant approved for entrepreneurial skills training for high school students

A grant of up to $50,000 will help pay for the continued development and implementation of a free online course in entrepreneurial skills for high school students in Southwest Virginia.

The Napoleon Hill Foundation in Wise received the award through the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority Coalfield Workforce Development and Training Fund.

According to a news release announcing the award, a similar grant was approved for the foundation in 2021 and closed in early 2022. At the time, 148 students in the VCEDA region registered for the online course, exceeding the initial goal of 100 students. Jonathan Belcher, VCEDA’s executive director/general counsel, said that additional registrations are expected this spring.

The course, “Keys to Success,” is composed of a series of 17 modules that students can complete at their own pace. They also earn three hours of college credit for completing the class.

The nonprofit Napoleon Hill Foundation, located on the campus of the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, is named after Napoleon Hill, who was born in Wise County in 1883. He is best known for his self-help book “Think and Grow Rich,” which was first published in 1937. 

To learn more, visit

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Roanoke College hosts Virginia Conference on Race

Roanoke College will host the second annual Virginia Conference on Race this Thursday and Friday, bringing together students and faculty from higher education institutions across Virginia and beyond to engage in conversations about race.

The conference was founded last year by Carrie Murawski, assistant professor of English and communication studies, and is sponsored by Roanoke College’s Center for Studying Structures of Race. The theme of this year’s event is “After/Math.”

The conference will be anchored by a keynote lecture delivered by Ernest McGowen III, associate professor of political science, inaugural program coordinator of the Africana Studies Program, and director of the Race and Racism Project at the University of Richmond.

McGowen specializes in political behavior, campaigns and elections, and race and ethnicity. His talk, “What happens between the independent and dependent variables? Student activism and institutional change,” is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday in the Wortmann Ballroom.  

On Friday throughout the day, more than 30 student research presentations will take place in various locations within the Colket Center.

On Friday afternoon, a documentary about the Center for Studying Structures of Race’s research project, “The Genealogy of Slavery,” will be screened and followed by a Q&A. Afterward, attendees will be invited to participate in a walking tour of the Histories of Enslavement at Roanoke College, which last year received a historic preservation award.   

The public is invited to attend the Virginia Conference on Race at no cost, but organizers request that attendees register in advance at this link