The Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) at Virginia Tech has named Otto Folkerts as the institute’s associate director of technology development. In his new position, Folkerts will serve as a member of the senior management team with direct responsibility for the development of new business initiatives as well as expanding the institute’s current commercial activities.

Folkerts joins VBI from CuraGen Corporation, a genomics-based pharmaceutical company developing protein, antibody, and small molecule drugs for the treatment of cancer, inflammatory diseases, obesity and diabetes. Since 1997, Folkerts has held positions of increasing responsibility in business development and the management of collaborative research projects at CuraGen. In addition to his broad experience in the biopharmaceutical sector and first-hand knowledge of genomics-based applications for life science research, Folkerts has worked directly with and for several leading bioagricultural companies.

“I am very pleased to welcome Otto on board,” said VBI Executive and Scientific Director Bruno Sobral. “Over the past five years at VBI, we have taken significant strides in putting together a highly competitive research program in the biological sciences and informatics. At VBI our mandate is not only to foster excellence in fundamental and applied research but also to support the transfer of technologies and competencies from the academic to the private sector. We want to be innovative in filling the commercialization gap, just like we are innovative in our research. Through his broad network of contacts and inside knowledge of the healthcare and agricultural sectors, Dr. Folkerts will provide senior level management and guidance for VBI’s growing portfolio of technology transfer projects. The transfer of innovation to commercial undertakings is a challenging assignment but one that ultimately has the potential to create new jobs and to stimulate economic development. In the years ahead, Otto will play a key role in evaluating new business opportunities for VBI.”

Folkerts holds a Ph.D. from Cornell University and a master’s degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. From 1989 to 1997, he held research and managerial positions at Dow AgroSciences LLC, a global leader in providing pest management and biotechnology products to improve agricultural practice. Before moving to CuraGen in 1997, Folkerts was senior scientist and technical leader at Dow where he was responsible for setting up and managing the company’s genetic engineering program to produce maize oil low in saturated fats (meeting FDA labeling criteria) and a Molecular Biology Center of Expertise supporting target discovery efforts in multiple disease-management departments.

From 1997 to 2001, Folkerts was director of collaborative research at CuraGen. In this position, he was responsible for a wide range of collaborative agreements with leading biopharmaceutical and agricultural companies, including Biogen, Genentech, GlaxoWellcome (now GlaxoSmithKline), Hoffman La-Roche Inc., Monsanto. Pfizer, Pioneer Hi Bred International. From 2001 to 2004, as director of business development, he was responsible for contracts and agreements supporting CuraGen’s internal research and development efforts. During this time, he managed and was ultimately responsible for the pharmacogenomics program collaboration with Bayer and a gene expression profiling collaboration with Philip Morris USA. From 2004 to 2005, Folkerts was director of regulatory affairs at CuraGen with responsibility for two drug candidates for different cancer indications.

Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) at Virginia Tech has a research platform centered on understanding the “disease triangle” of host-pathogen-environment interactions. With almost $49 million in extramural research funding awarded to date, VBI researchers are working on many human, crop, and animal diseases.

Founded in 1872 as a land-grant college, Virginia Tech has grown to become the largest university in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Today, Virginia Tech’s eight colleges are dedicated to putting knowledge to work through teaching, research, and outreach activities and to fulfilling its vision to be among the top research universities in the nation. At its 2,600-acre main campus located in Blacksburg and other campus centers in Northern Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Hampton Roads, Richmond, and Roanoke, Virginia Tech enrolls more than 28,000 full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries in 180 academic degree programs.

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