Finding a Launching Pad for Success in 39 North

Scientists, entrepreneurs, and students are all finding a launching pad for success at the Danforth Center and BRDG Park in the 39 North innovation district. With over 1,000 plant science PhDs, 100 bioscience companies, $1.3B in bioscience venture capital under local management, and a close proximity to the heart of U.S. agriculture, there is no better place to be in agtech and plant science. Meet Katie Murphy, a recent postdoctoral graduate from University of California, Davis, Orlando Saez, CEO and cofounder of Aker Ag, and Angi Taylor, a St. Louis native and lab clerk at NewLeaf Symbiotics at BRDG Park, and learn how their careers have grown in 39 North.

Katie Murphy in a greenhouse at University of California, Davis. Photo courtesy of UC Davis College of Biological Sciences.

Katie Murphy

Katie Murphy, Postdoctoral Associate in Doug Allen and Malia Gehan’s lab, recently moved to 39 North after graduating from the University of California, Davis with a PhD in Plant Biology. When planning her next move, Katie was drawn to the benefits of working in an innovation district like 39 North: “The connection to industry and the unique blend of basic and applied research that is the backbone of 39 North was really important to me. Those true connections between universities, nonprofits, large companies, and small startups are so important to pushing our innovation into the hands of farmers.”

Katie’s move to 39 North in January 2021 was not her first experience in the region, though. In 2019 she was able to come to 39 North for an internship through a fellowship from the Innovation Institute for Food and Health at UC Davis. She spent four months interning with TechAccel, LLC, a Kansas City based  agricultural investment and development firm that currently has offices in the Danforth Center. “After that experience, I quickly grew to think of St. Louis as my new home thanks to opportunities, innovation, and lifestyle,” says Katie. 

As a recent transplant, Katie is hardly without a community. In the second half of 2020, four other recent UC Davis graduates also moved to St. Louis and the 39 North area. “Now two of my former classmates work at Bayer, one works at Elemental Enzymes, and the fourth is on the job market. The opportunities, cost of living, and lifestyle brought us all here,” says Katie. “Continuing to connect with folks at the Danforth Center and in the larger 39 North district will help me to do impactful science, and also one day move to future career steps as a leader in plant science.”

Meet Orlando Saez

Orlando Saez

After participating in the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator at the Danforth Center, Orlando Saez, CEO and Co-Founder of Aker Technologies, realized 39 North was the best place for his company to succeed. “St. Louis is the right place to be for us, because it works,” says Orlando. “When you need to innovate, you need the best – the best talent, the best support, the right place. St. Louis offers a great balance for emerging companies like us in agriculture.” Aker, the premier partner for agriculture retailers and suppliers who are in need of the most valuable field insights, has permanently relocated from Chicago to St. Louis in the 39 North district. 

“The IN2 program, the proximity to our customers, the support from our local investors... all of this made St. Louis an obvious choice to move our headquarters and grow our team right here. The market impact of our work and collaboration is big. Together, we are accelerating the adoption of precise application of crop protection inputs,” says Orlando. 

Meet Angi Taylor

Angi Taylor

Today, Angi Taylor is a Lab Clerk at NewLeaf Symbiotics, though her initial career path looked a little different. Prior to working at NewLeaf, Angi was working at St. Louis Community College’s Center for Plant and Life Sciences as an administrative assistant with plans to move into nonprofit administration. After seeing students go through the college’s Plant and Life Sciences program at BRDG Park and gain meaningful employment, Angi decided to pursue this route herself.  “I never thought I would love it so much,” she says. 

In the Plant and Life Science program, Angi interned at NewLeaf Symbiotics before taking a permanent position as a lab clerk. “I was actually seeing students graduate with a two-year certificate and gain employment that had great benefits — jobs that you could be proud of. And these were people from various backgrounds,” Taylor says. “I was not a traditional student. At that time, I was in my mid-40’s and taking classes all over again. But it wasn’t as impossible as I thought.” Angi says that with resources and training programs like St. Louis Community College’s Center for Plant and Life Sciences, the opportunities in the agriculture industry are endless here in 39 North.

Parts of this story previously appeared on STL Made’s website, read the full story here.

Olive, Lindbergh Interchange Redesign

With nearly $6M in infrastructure projects underway, 39 North is a constantly evolving district that is becoming easier for commuters, pedestrians, and cyclists to get around. Recently, 39 North announced that construction will begin this year to rebuild the interchange at Olive and Lindbergh boulevards into a “folded diamond” interchange. This will make it easier to accommodate all traffic movements.

Learn more about the Interchange Redesign at