Inova Health System is nearing a $112 million deal with the University of Virginia School of Medicine to bolster its effort to become a national leader in genomics and cancer research.
Leaders from both organizations plan to announce an agreement Wednesday to form a research partnership and bring a regional campus of the university’s medical school to Inova’s planned Center for Personalized Health in Merrifield.
The U-Va. medical school would keep its main campus in Charlottesville.
The agreement, which has not been finalized, would end a more than year-long search by Inova to identify a medical school to partner with on the discovery and commercialization of treatments for cancer and other diseases, a mission that dovetails with the Obama administration’s $1 billion “Moonshot” initiative aimed at eliminating cancer.
Personalized medicine, in which patients receive treatment tailored to their genetic makeup, is considered a critical opportunity both to fight cancer and advance the commonwealth’s economy.
A medical school campus in Fairfax County would also create a path for U-Va. medical students to serve both at Inova’s flagship hospital on Gallows Road and across the street, where Inova is building the Center for Personalized Health on a 117-acre former corporate complex of ExxonMobil.
“With a research-intensive university and health system, we are committed to developing research breakthroughs that improve the human condition and to training the next generation of physicians and health care workers,” U-Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan said in a statement.
“This affiliation can help us better accomplish our missions in education and research.”
Assuming that the new center receives accreditation, officials hope that the first 30- to 40-student class could begin working in Fairfax by 2021. (Some medical students already train at Inova’s hospitals, and that number could grow in the interim).
J. Knox Singleton, Inova chief executive, said Inova would rely on the university’s prowess in engineering and computer science, critical tools to analyzing and utilizing reams of genetic data, as well as the school’s experience using medical discoveries to launch new companies.
“U-Va. would have a much more difficult time doing that outside of this partnership, and we would have a much more difficult time doing this outside of this partnership,” he said.
The Virginia General Assembly included $28 million in funding for the partnership in its fiscal 2017-2018 budget, which took effect in July.
Inova added to that by raising $56 million, a 2-to-1 match of the taxpayer dollars. U-Va. raised an additional $28 million to hit the $112 million total.
The U-Va. partnership is the latest in a long line of agreements Inova has formed since agreeing to buy the Exxon campus two years ago, including a deal to launch a new cancer center with a $50 million donation from home-building executive Dwight Schar.
Work rehabbing the buildings is underway. Singleton said he does not expect anyone to begin working on the new campus until late 2017.
He said other announcements are forthcoming, including a new investment initiative and “blockbuster recruits” from out of the region.
Inova officials had spoken previously with other universities, including Shenandoah University, about having a medical school presence on the research campus.
It announced a smaller partnership with George Mason University last year involving personalized medicine, backed by another $16 million in taxpayer funds.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) issued a statement praising J. Knox Singleton, Inova chief executive.
“I applaud Inova and the University of Virginia for embarking on this exciting new initiative and look forward to the economic, scientific and quality of life benefits it will generate for all of us,” McAuliffe said.
House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford), Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) and other state and local officials are scheduled to join the announcement Wednesday at the Center for Personalized Health.