Health-care coup

Fairfax lands $200 million medical research institute

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Print this page by Paula Squires

Inova Health System is teaming up with geneticist Dietrich Stephan to create The Ignite Institute, a nonprofit medical research organization, in Fairfax County. The $200 million venture would create 415 jobs.  “The Ignite Institute adds to Virginia’s position as a world-class center of excellence for research and development,” said Gov. Timothy M. Kaine in announcing the project in mid-November. 

Ignite plans to use sophisticated molecular scanning technologies to develop personalized treatments for chronic diseases such as cancer. “Virginia is a state where personalized medicine can fully take root and flourish,” said Stephan, who will be Ignite’s president and CEO. “The highly educated work force, national IT leadership, excellence in health care and proximity to Washington, D.C., make this the ideal place to launch the institute.” 

Stephan also will be executive director of Inova’s Translational and Personalized Medicine Center. He previously served as the deputy director of discovery research at the Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix. In the past three years, he co-founded three companies: Navigenics, a personal genetics testing firm; Amnestix and Aueon,  both biopharmaceutical companies.

Inova, one of the mid-Atlantic region’s largest not-for-profit health-care systems, has committed $25 million to the venture. “The Ignite Institute promises to be an entirely new model in the real world application of personalized medicine,” said Knox Singleton, Inova’s CEO. “Inova’s partnership ... will give our patients extraordinary access to some of the most leading-edge diagnostics and treatments anywhere in the world.” 

The state-owned Center for Innovative Technology will house the institute temporarily and build a portion of its facilities as wet lab space. Once Ignite moves into a permanent 300,000 square-foot building elsewhere in Fairfax, the wet lab space would become available as an incubator for future companies.

The Fairfax County Economic Development Partnership worked with the state’s economic development agency to snag the institute. Kaine approved a $3 million grant from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund to assist Fairfax with the project. The institute also will be eligible to receive an incentive grant totaling $22 million, subject to General Assembly approval, in increments of $5.5 million a year over four years. The performance grant is contingent on job creation, commitments of additional outside capital and research collaboration with Virginia universities.

Fairfax County plans to sell industrial revenue bonds to finance construction of the institute’s permanent headquarters if the plan gains approval from the board of supervisors.

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