39 North Innovation District Plan Unveiled
St. Louis is poised to become a hub of innovation, garnering national attention for its creative projects, cooperative spirit, ready investors, tech advances and laudable outcomes. It’s changing the way we work, live and play, from an agricultural research facility working to end hunger to a community arts organization unlike any other in the nation. And, in the best of ways, it’s changing the way we think and talk about our city.
ALIVE delved into STL’s innovative spirit in our first Innovation Issue to discover the people, ideas, spaces and places that are creating a better St. Louis. Meet the minds and makers behind the movement.
Four thousand years ago, innovative Chinese farmers invented plant grafting to ensure their villages had enough food. Today, scientists at Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, the world’s leading facility for plant and agricultural science and innovation, are working to fight hunger—this time on a global level. Researchers at the Center’s Institute for International Crop Improvement are using agricultural innovation to reduce hunger in developing countries and improve human health at home by working with partners in sub-Saharan Africa to develop disease-resistant cassava plants, a staple for African farmers whose crops are being destroyed by viruses.
But hunger is not the only urgent human need being addressed. At the BioResearch & Development Growth (BRDG) Park on the Danforth campus,MOgene Clinical Diagnostics, LC, will release ResistDx, the first HIV drug-resistance testing that will determine—in less than a week—what kind of mutation the virus has undergone in a given patient to help doctors choose the most effective drug therapy. Also slated for 2015: A Danforth Center building expansion that will provide lab space for more than 100 additional researchers, and a new collaboration with Mizzou that will bring in four leading scientists to accelerate research and education and train plant scientists who will lead future generations. - KA
BUSINESS: Donn Rubin | President & CEO, BioSTL
An environment for innovation doesn’t just happen: It requires deliberate strategies. For 14 years, BioSTL has quietly worked to put these ideas into place. An emphasis of the organization’s work, according to Donn Rubin, is turning ideas into companies. So far, its BioGenerator investment arm has created and supported 53 startups that have raised a collective $190 million.
But it doesn’t stop there: Startups need capital, so BioSTL works to recruit venture capitalists and set up investment funds. Startups also need physical facilities, which BioSTL helps provide in the Cortex district and at BRDG. Talented and diverse workforces have been developed through measures like the Bioscience Inclusion Initiative, and the organization has advocated for startup-friendly public policies and led efforts to secure federal collaborative grants.
Now that the innovations are reaching critical mass, the region needs to attract established companies that fit its strengths—which led to BioSTL’s creation of the St. Louis-Israel Innovation Connection last fall. It already has its first success: The plant genetics and breeding-technology company Kaiima Bio-Agritech recently opened its US headquarters in St. Louis. – AD
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