39 North Innovation District Plan Unveiled
The Science in Our Food
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Raise your hand if you’ve ever had to speak after two icons.
First, I want to say on behalf of all of us associated with the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center--the staff, the scientists, the trustees, the volunteers and the friends, many of whom are here today and I’m amazed and impressed at the turnout here--I want to say thank you. I want to thank both of you personally as well as the trustees of the Danforth Foundation.
This grant illustrates in a very dramatic way--I think we would all agree--your trust in this young institution and your belief that the application of creative science to important pressing problems here and around the world can make a big difference. So thank you very much for your life’s work, not just for this grant.
I want to stress that these funds are not going away. These funds are simply being moved and put to work. If anyone’s concerned about the Danforth Foundation disappearing I hope that gives you a bit of comfort. We intend to put them to work on a permanent basis through our endowment to do a number of things, all of which relate to keeping the Danforth Plant Science Center at the forefront of scientific research that addresses the big problems in plant science and agriculture again here and around the world; that promotes environmental quality through development of new technologies and new resources to supplant our limited fossil fuels; and to grow sustainable economic activity primarily here in Saint Louis around plant science.
The mission of the Danforth Plant Science Center, as Bill mentioned, remains the same and it’s a very exciting one to be involved with.
Now I’m also excited about what these funds will enable in the near future. Let me just go down a brief list.
First, the funds are going to enable us to go out and recruit a new crop of scientists to fill out the space in this wonderful facility. In fact, this process has just recently begun.
We intend to hire a group of new investigators, something on the order of 5 or 6 investigators, many of them will be focusing on understanding the genetics and the genomes of important plants. And understanding how genes in plants interact with the environment to affect things like productivity, yield, resistance to pests and pathogens, production of medicinal compounds, and production of energy-rich molecules which we and others around the world need for the future.
We’ll be able to add critical talent, expertise, and technology at this very important interface between biology--plant science, in particular--and computers. This interface is a critical part of scientific progress, particularly progress to address the big questions. This is a challenging area because very few people have been trained at this interface.
We’ll be able to bring people in to represent or to spearhead individual projects but also who will interact with all of the scientists currently at the Danforth Center to promote the application of computation, mathematics, and other fields that are outside of the primary discipline of plant science.
Importantly, these new funds are going to provide training opportunities and I want to make particular mention of training opportunities for students, graduate students and even under-graduates. We have a number of excellent partner institutions and neighboring institutions that we’ve already started working with; we have been working with them in the past. But these funds are going to enable us to double-back and really ramp up efforts, activities, and programs that touch a lot of lives of students. We need these students trained and we need them trained in new areas with new expertise because these are the individuals that are going to be leading the next generation of scientific discovery, solving the next set of big problems, and founding and staffing the next group of successful companies.
And finally these funds are going to provide an important stimulus. The primary stimulus is through enhancing the competitiveness of the scientific staff here at the Center. We depend on grants that are extremely competitive but those institutions that can provide backing behind those grants with facilities, and indeed actual dollars, have a competitive advantage.
So this grant represents the beginning of a new chapter for the Plant Science Center and we expect to grow in both size and impact and I think you’ll see this happening within the next few months.
I want to conclude by saying again how thrilled I am to be part of the Danforth Plant Science Center and just mention that I fully recognize the honor and the obligation to carry on the spirit of the Danforth Foundation. I’m honored and proud to carry that into the future.
So with that, I’ll conclude. We have representatives of the media here. We’d be happy to answer questions. But thank you again all for coming.