Virginia’s higher education system, consistently ranked as one of the best in the country, is well established as an elite talent incubator. But the Commonwealth’s universities, both public and private, also serve as a launching pad for startup companies.

Several Virginia localities have established incubators to help fledgling life sciences companies continue, and ultimately capitalize on, their vital research. These include the VA Bio+Tech Park in Richmond, the Northern Virginia Bioscience Center in Prince William County (which counts George Mason University’s Science and Technology Campus as a tenant), the VABeachBio Accelerator in Virginia Beach, and Charlottesville’s CvilleBioHub, which will serve as the model for similar organizations in other areas of the Commonealth. These organizations have played a crucial role in supporting numerous life sciences startups that started out as ideas from researchers at Virginia universities.

Companies that emerge from Virginia universities can also receive support from the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation (VIPC), which accelerates early commercialization and funding support for Virginia startups and entrepreneurs. VIPC operates a family of investment funds supporting target industries across Virginia. Its Virginia Venture Partners funds have invested more than $32 million across its target sectors since 2005 while helping connect companies with accelerators, seed funds, and angel investors.

Other industries have found support from Virginia universities, both as benefactors and proving grounds. The technology that has been commercialized by Torc Robotics in Montgomery County started out as a Virginia Tech entry in several engineering and robotics competitions. Richmond food and beverage startup Absurd Snacks was initially developed for a project in Bench Top Innovations, an entrepreneurship class at the University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business. PFP Cybersecurity in Fairfax County was launched as Power Fingerprinting, Inc., behind innovative technology developed by student researchers at Virginia Tech. James Madison University was an early backer of Fairfax County unmanned startup Blue Vigil, whose tethered power system for drones counts clients as far-flung as the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs.

Virginia universities have spawned ideas with the potential to revolutionize pharmaceutical production (the Medicines for All Institute at Virginia Commonwealth University) and products that changed the way we converse on the internet (Reddit, famously developed in a University of Virginia dorm room). Read on to learn about several companies that have developed from ideas or investments from Virginia universities.

Eastern Virginia Medical School

ReAlta Life Sciences, Inc.

ReAlta Life Sciences, Inc., founded by scientists at Eastern Virginia Medical School and Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk, is a clinical-stage, rare disease biotech company dedicated to harnessing the power of the immune system to address life-threatening diseases. The company’s name is derived from the Gaelic word for “star.”

Year founded: 2018
Founding locality: City of Norfolk


George Mason University

Virongy Biosciences, Inc.

Virongy Biosciences is dedicated to improving global heath by providing platforms and tools to researchers and pharmaceutical companies working on developing therapeutics for high-risk viral pathogens and gene therapy products. The name “Virongy” is a portmanteau of the words “Viron” (a complete virus particle) and “Virology” (the study of viruses).

Year founded: 2021
Founding locality: Prince William County 

Ceres Nanosciences, Inc.

Ceres Nanosciences is focused on incorporating its proprietary Nanotrap® particle technology into a range of diagnostic and research use products and workflows. Nanotrap particles capture, concentrate, and preserve low-abundance analytes from biological samples, enabling earlier, more accurate detection of diseases.

Year founded: 2008
Founding locality: Prince William County


James Madison University

Blue Vigil

Blue Vigil, founded in partnership with investors including James Madison University, is the U.S. market leader in drone tether power systems that enable unlimited flight time for enterprise-class drones. Its RS1000E tether system is a drone-agnostic system that provides continuous power for persistent  drone missions when connected to a power source. Blue Vigil is using its technology to create a new product category — aerial LED portable lighting, a person-portable light that uses a tethered UAV to position a high-intensity LED array high above the area.

Year founded: 2015
Founding locality: Fairfax County


University of Richmond

Absurd Snacks

Created in a University of Richmond campus kitchen through the University’s Bench Top Innovations class — in which students build a snack business from concept to launch — Absurd Snacks creates unique, nutrient-rich, and flavor-forward trail mixes that are safe for snackers with food allergies. Newly graduated founders Grace Mittl and Eli Bank continue to grow Absurd Snacks in Richmond.

Year founded: 2022
Founding locality: City of Richmond


University of Virginia

HemoShear Therapeutics

HemoShear Therapeutics is a clinical-stage company developing novel treatments for patients with rare diseases. The company’s core technology was developed by two University of Virginia researchers to create more accurate models of human disease, and its researchers continue to use advanced biological and computational models to accelerate the discovery of innovative therapies to change the course of disease.

Year founded: 2008
Founding locality: City of Charlottesville


Spun out of a semester-long class project at the University of Virginia, RIVANNA® is elevating global standards of care through the development and commercialization of world-first imaging-based medical technologies. Limitations of X-ray preclude its use at the bedside in many common medical procedures, resulting in increased failure rates, delayed diagnosis and care, and high cost. RIVANNA’s portfolio of more than 40 patents and patents pending mitigates those issues by combining the benefits of portable, safe medical ultrasound with the high-precision bone imaging of X-ray.

Year founded: 2010
Founding locality: City of Charlottesville

AgroSpheres, Inc.

Developed out of a project between two University of Virginia biomedical engineering students, AgroSpheres’ mission is to transform agriculture through reliable, affordable bio-based solutions. The AgroSpheres™ Inert technology utilizes RNA interference bioprocesses to silence vital genes of a target pest or pathogen, preventing off-target damage to non-harmful insects. AgroSpheres is currently engaged in a multi-year collaboration with German pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG to further research in novel modalities of biologicals for crop protection products.

Year founded: 2016
Founding locality: City of Charlottesville

ZielBio, Inc.

ZielBio, founded by University of Virginia biomedical engineering professor Kimberly Kelly, is a clinical-stage biotechnology company that identifies novel disease targets and develops therapeutic interventions to improve patient outcomes. Its proprietary drug discovery platform, ZielFind, combines the power of functional, high-throughput screening with large-content data analytics to identify high-value targets. ZielBio has a promising pipeline of therapies and targets, including lead asset ZB131, a proprietary humanized monoclonal antibody against cancer-specific plectin, currently being studied in a clinical trial.

Year founded: 2010
Founding locality: City of Charlottesville


Virginia Commonwealth University

Perfusion Medical

Perfusion Medical is commercializing PEG-20k, a drug for the restoration of tissue perfusion developed by Virginia Commonwealth University researchers with $12 million in U.S. Army funding. PEG-20k is a promising potential therapy for patients affected by shock and has been referred to as a “game changer” by independent doctors. In large animal trials, the patent-protected IV solution worked 10 to 20 times better than current standards of care.

Year founded: 2020
Founding locality: City of Richmond


Virginia Tech

Kryptowire Labs

Founded by Virginia Tech engineering professor Angelos Stavrou and funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Kryptowire Labs provides mobile application security analysis tools, anti-piracy technologies, mobile app marketplace security analytics, and Enterprise Mobility Management solutions. In 2019, Kryptowire received the Bang for the Buck Award from DHS’s Science & Technology Directorate for its work with the Critical Infrastructure Resilience Institute to develop an automated system for the detection of prepositioned cyber threats in mobile applications, the Internet of Things, embedded systems, and critical infrastructure technologies.

Year founded: 2011
Founded locality: Fairfax County


The founders of TECHLAB met in the late 1970s at the Anaerobe Laboratory of Virginia Tech, where they were investigating diagnosis and treatments for infection from C. difficile, a major hospital pathogen. The company designs, develops, and manufactures infectious disease diagnostics that are distributed worldwide.

Year founded: 1989
Founding locality: Montgomery County

Torc Robotics

Torc Robotics spun out of a series of competitions that CEO Michael Fleming and a group of graduate students undertook while enrolled at Virginia Tech. Today, Torc offers a complete autonomous software solution for the trucking industry. Now an independent subsidiary of industry leader Daimler Truck AG, Torc continues to work toward the goal of changing freight movement through safer, more efficient transport of critical goods.

Year founded: 2005
Founding locality: Montgomery County

PFP Cybersecurity

PFP Cybersecurity is an analytics company that delivers integrity assessment solutions for supply chain risk management and cybersecurity. PFP technology, first patented by Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties, Inc., is based on analyzing out-of-band, unintended analog emissions such as power consumption and electromagnetic emanations, and performing machine learning to establish reference baselines and detect anomalies indicative of tampering.

Year founded: 2010
Founding locality: Fairfax County