The Future of White Oak: A Global Biomedical Destination

Q&A with Jonathan Genn for Viva White Oak

We recently spoke to Jonathan Genn, Executive Vice President & General Counsel for Percontee, Inc. & Global LifeSci Development Corporation, about the Viva White Oak, a public-private partnership between Global LifeSci Development Corporation, an affiliate of Percontee, Inc., and Montgomery County to build a global state-of-the-art life sciences center in eastern Montgomery County.

Rendering of FDA Circle within the planned VIVA White Oak™ Global Innovation Hub, just outside the Northeast Entrance Gates to FDA and the Federal Research Center.

Rendering of FDA Circle within the planned VIVA White Oak™ Global Innovation Hub, just outside the Northeast Entrance Gates to FDA and the Federal Research Center.

Q: For those who are not familiar with the Viva White Oak project, tell us about it.

A:  VIVA White Oak™ is a planned 300-acre mixed-use community in White Oak. The more than 12 million sq. ft. of buildings will include, among other things, internationally preeminent biomedical and biotechnological enterprises, a consortium of biomedical universities, a full-service hotel and conference center, restaurants, shops, professional offices, residences, parks, and an elementary school. The community will be located adjacent to the newly consolidated FDA headquarters, and the new, state-of-the-art Washington Adventist Hospital now under construction. Together, the 660-acre FDA/Federal Research Center property, the 50-acre Washington Adventist Hospital, and the 300-acre VIVA White Oak™ constitute more than 1,000 acres of world-class biomedical and biotechnological innovation.

Q: What is the end-goal of this project?

A: We are creating a vibrant national and international biomedical and biotech cluster, which is the kind of ecosystem that helps create and accelerate biomedical and biotechnological discoveries and commercialization. Innovation and commercialization happen in deep, rich and broad clusters where you bring all the stakeholders together.  And, with our public-private partnerships directly with the FDA and Washington Adventist Hospital, that is precisely what we are designing in White Oak.

Q: Talk about the history behind this project.

A: The Homer and Martha Gudelsky family — who own Percontee and over 70 affiliated companies, including the VIVA White Oak™ development company and the Global LifeSci Development Corporation — have been well-respected corporate and philanthropic citizens of Montgomery County for generations. More than 45 years ago, they developed the then cornfields of Shady Grove into a life sciences epicenter, serving as the catalyst for today’s I-270 biotech corridor. This generation of Gudelsky family members propose to do the same in White Oak.

Q: What is unique about this project?

A: What makes VIVA White Oak™ unique among all international biomedical clusters is that it is adjacent to the FDA headquarters. In the words of a former FDA Deputy Commissioner, we have an “unprecedented” public-private partnership with the FDA, pursuant to a specific Memorandum of Understanding, to work collaboratively with the agency and international biomedical stakeholders, including private biomedical enterprises like pharma to advance global health. There are many science clusters all around the country, but there is only one FDA headquarters, and the only way that innovation can get to the most lucrative healthcare marketplace in the world (the U.S) is through the FDA, adjacent to our VIVA White Oak™ community. VIVA White Oak™, together with the adjoining FDA headquarters and Washington Adventist Hospital, represent what has been referred to as “The Bio Port-of-Entry into the U.S. Health Marketplace.”

Q: What does Viva White Oak represent to Montgomery County?

A: This cluster will enable Montgomery County to continue to attract the best and brightest scientists and innovators in global health because of its promise of a broad, deep, and rich biomedical cluster with vibrant amenities. In addition to the FDA, Montgomery County is home to NIH, NCI, NIST, University of Maryland, Johns Hopkins University, world-renowned public pharmaceutical and therapeutic companies, and hundreds of private biomedical and biotechnological enterprises. VIVA White Oak™ looks forward to joining all these stakeholders to help further advance Montgomery County as a global health leader and biomedical destination.