A Growing Innovation Community

Our innovation community has seen many new developments recently that are strengthening 39 North and the St. Louis region. From new team members to acquisitions, there are exciting developments underway.

Meet the New Team Members

This year we welcomed Tom Laurita and Stephanie Regagnon to the Danforth Center team. Tom comes from NewLeaf Symbiotics, a mid-stage agtech company he co-founded in 2012 and led as CEO until recently. He has stepped in as the Danforth Center’s Director of Entrepreneurship, focusing on identifying technologies in our labs that are poised for commercialization as well as to mentor scientists and help them develop their business plans. He is joined by Stephanie Regagnon, our new Executive Director of Innovation Partnerships. Prior to joining the Danforth Center, Stephanie was the CEO of FieldWatch, a non-profit company promoting stewardship and collaboration in agriculture. At the Center, Stephanie will work to establish and lead collaborative efforts to develop and maintain business relationships and partnerships that help deliver on our mission, particularly in relation to our role in building regional agtech and bioscience strength.

AgTech NEXT Goes Virtual

Originally rescheduled for November, we recently announced the AgTech NEXT innovation summit will be fully virtual. To avoid conference fatigue, event organizers have shifted the conference to a series of seven - 60 minute live, online sessions. The conference sessions will be held from 12 – 1 PM CDT on Tuesdays, beginning September 22 with a keynote by Dr. Pat Brown, founder and CEO of Impossible Foods through November 10, with a break on November 3, election day. 

Conference sessions are organized around the theme of Risks & Rewards featuring innovators, investors and industry experts. In addition to the content sessions, the unique online event platform will also offer attendees the opportunity to network in 1:1 meetings, share their perspective in interactive TableTalks, and engage with our partners who can assist in growing their business.

RNAissance Ag Completes Acquisition of St. Louis-based RNAgri

RNAissance Ag, a TechAccel subsidiary co-founded by Bala Venkata, Senior Research Scientist at the Danforth Center, has acquired RNAgri Inc., a Saint Louis-based ag biotech startup. RNAgri has developed a platform for the cost-effective production of RNA for use in topical RNA-interference (RNAi) products, including biopesticides. The primary focus of RNAissance Ag is the development of sprayable RNA pesticides, including against pests such as the Diamondback Moth. No previous RNAi product has been effective against the Diamondback Moth, which is estimated to cause more than $4 billion in crop losses annually. The RNAgri platform will add manufacturing capacity to the pesticide design and development efforts. RNAissance Ag will conduct multiple field trials this summer and fall on the Diamondback Moth and Fall Armyworm. The company has an expanding development pipeline targeting additional pests, and its designs also have applications as pesticidal traits in crop seeds.

RNAissance Ag was a part of the 2019 Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator cohort, through which Bala worked with Noah Fahlgren, Ph.D., the Danforth Center’s Data Science Facility director, to validate the RNAissance Ag technology.