Research!America, a national organization that builds awareness and support for health research, will award its Gordon and Llura Gund Leadership Award to Michael Friedlander, the founding executive director of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, and Heywood Fralin, a health care executive who has helped build the biotechnology industry in Virginia. 

The award recognizes individuals who have increased the level of advocacy for medical and health research. President Joe Biden and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg are among the past honorees.

“We are excited to honor Heywood Fralin and Michael Friedlander with the Gordon and Llura Gund Leadership Award,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America. “Through their work in establishing and developing the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, they have built outstanding partnerships with leading institutions to expand research opportunities and investment across the state and have raised visibility and understanding of vital medical and health research at local, state, and national levels.”

The recognition from Research!America is meaningful for a region that has not been known for biomedical research and technology, according to Friedlander and Fralin.

“Research!America is a powerful voice,” said Friedlander, who is also the vice president for health sciences and technology at Virginia Tech. “When they speak out on behalf of the value of medical research for the health of the citizens of the United States, it counts. They are seen as an honest broker by the national leadership, including presidents and Congress. This recognition from such an austere organization is an indication of the growing biomedical research enterprise at Virginia Tech and the value of the partnership with Carilion Clinic.”

Friedlander and Fralin are grateful for the award, saying it is a personal and professional honor, but importantly, the recognition is a credit to the community’s role in the medical research enterprise.

“This is an example of the importance of this enterprise for this community,” said Fralin, a business leader who in 2018 finalized a $50 million gift to Virginia Tech to support biomedical research. “What we have accomplished is just the beginning – the best is still ahead of us.”

Today, the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute in Roanoke comprises 39 research teams, employs more than 500 people, and has $155 million in active grants and contracts.

The annual Research!America Advocacy Awards — first hosted in 1996 — will be held in March 2023.

“All of Research!America’s 2023 Advocacy Award honorees – through their innovation, dedication, perseverance, creativity, and generosity of spirit – have advanced our nation’s commitment to research, accelerated the pace of research progress, strengthened the research enterprise, and increased public and policymaker engagement in medical and health research,” Woolley said.

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