The needs to feed and power a growing, changing world, while also preserving the environment and vital natural resources, are among our greatest global challenges of the 21st century. Sustainably providing for nearly 10 billion healthy people by 2050 will require that we increase available food by at least 50%, and achieve a major shift toward clean, renewable sources of energy.

The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center focuses scientific research at the nexus of food, energy and the environment to improve the productivity and sustainability of agriculture. We assemble interactive teams of scientists and develop unique platforms to discover underlying principles about how plants work. We then convert that knowledge into useful crops and products, and partner with organizations that are best positioned to solve problems where they exist around the world.

This means more productive staple crops that provide better nutrition, more sustainable crops that have a smaller environmental footprint, creation of leading-edge companies to bring innovation to market, and well-trained plant scientists who will guide the next generation. The Center aims to improve human health and protect the environment through creative science and thoughtful application.

Research at the Danforth Center is funded by competitive grants from public and private sources, and by philanthropic support. We are currently raising capital to develop and expand our numbers of scientists, facilities, key research platforms and capabilities.

Danforth Center at a Glance

  • Employees: 267 total; 193 scientists (20 Principal Investigators)
  • Major research areas: Basic plant science discovery and technology development; food security crop improvement and sustainability; next-generation/sustainable bioenergy
  • 2016 Peer-Reviewed Scientific Publications: 119
  • Institutes and Organized Programs:  Institute for International Crop Improvement; Enterprise Rent-a-Car Institute for Renewable Fuels; Science Education and Outreach
  • Faculty and graduate student affiliations: Washington University, University of Missouri
  • 2017 Operating Budget:  $30M - 45% from competitive research grants; 40% from draws on endowment and 15% from annual gifts and other income
  • Top funding agencies/foundations:  U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. National Science Foundation and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Brief History
Located in St. Louis, Missouri, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center was founded in 1998. The independent, nonprofit research center was the result of Dr. William H. Danforth, Founding Chairman, and his vision that scientific knowledge, when applied to solving critical challenges, has the potential to lift families, communities and nations from poverty and empower people everywhere to enjoy better health and a higher quality of life. The Center was named after Dr. Danforth’s late father, Donald Danforth, the onetime leader of the Ralston Purina Company. Ralston Purina grew rapidly under his leadership and was a pillar of American agriculture as a major producer of breakfast cereals and feed for farm animals and pets.

The original Danforth Center building was constructed in 2001. On April 15, 2016 the William H. Danforth Wing was dedicated in honor of the Founding Chairman. In 2008, the Bio-Research and Development Growth (BRDG) Park building was constructed on the north end of the Danforth Center campus, and houses approximately 15 companies and organizations that contribute to the growing bioscience and ag tech ecosystem in the region.