Prior to creation of the Coalition for Plant and Life Sciences in 2001, St. Louis long stood as a leader in scientific research – biomedical as well as plant and agriculture. It was, and is, home to internationally recognized scientific research universities and institutions, including Washington University in St. Louis and Saint Louis University, and multinational corporations such as Monsanto and Sigma-Aldrich.
Over the past decade, the St. Louis community has made significant strides in establishing the infrastructure to commercialize bioscience innovation and to capture regionally the economic benefit of our world-class medical and plant science. Since 2001, the Coalition for Plant and Life Sciences played a leadership role in stimulating and facilitating necessary elements of this entrepreneurial infrastructure – including new company creation, growing local venture capital, establishing science districts with lab facilities, and promoting public policies to support science, entrepreneurship and the growth of the bioscience industry.
Still, a sober assessment of St. Louis’ successes and remaining challenges pointed to a number of gaps that must be filled for St. Louis to achieve the next level of economic success and to be positioned globally as a leader in the biosciences. Additional resources must be focused on increasing the pace of new company formation around our competitive strengths, while adding elements to strategically grow our access to capital, and improving our ability to attract experienced entrepreneurs and corporate relocations. Finally, all of these enhanced efforts require a more formal mechanism to coordinate and integrate the elements, set priorities and ensure the St. Louis bioscience community is speaking with a single, coherent voice to the public, policymakers and funders. This assessment of regional needs led to the creation of BioSTL to lead ongoing efforts to build greater regional capacity in innovation, capital and entrepreneurship in the biosciences.
Coalition for Plant and Life Sciences (2001-2011)
The Coalition was founded at the behest of St. Louis’ major regional business organizations and has been led since its inception by Dr. William H. Danforth, chancellor emeritus of Washington University in St. Louis and founding chairman of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. See the list of regional leaders who make up the Coalition, renamed the BioSTL Coalition in 2011.
Over the past decade much has been accomplished in these and other areas:
- The BioGenerator – The Coalition established the BioGenerator in 2003 to work closely with universities, scientists, entrepreneurs and investors to start new companies. To date, the BioGenerator has created more than 40 new seed and pre-seed stage start-ups, investing more than $5 million in these companies and leveraging $140 million in additional private co-investment.
- Facilities for start-up companies – In 2002, the Coalition established the Center of Research Technology and Entrepreneurial Exchange (Cortex), which has developed two successful buildings and assembled more than 40 acres of urban land for further development. In parallel, Bio-Research & Development Growth (BRDG) Park on the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center campus has developed a successful multi-tenant building for emerging plant science companies.
- Local venture capital – Since 2001, St. Louis has grown to nearly $1 billion in biosciences venture capital under local management. Much of this growth was triggered by three separate commitments of $40 million each from Washington University in St. Louis, the Danforth Foundation and the McDonnell family.
- Businesses and organizations recruited to the region, including start-ups attracted by leveraging our institutional strengths and our start-up support infrastructure, including the BioGenerator.
- Improved university technology transfer.
- Federal support and state tax credits for Cortex, the BioGenerator, and the Center for Emerging Technologies.
- Bioscience state legislation, including establishment of the Life Sciences Research Trust Fund, which has funded nearly $30 million in research capacity projects overall, about $7.7 million of that flowing to St. Louis projects.
- Developed and built a statewide coalition to pass MOSIRA (the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act), a potentially transformational state program to support industry-building efforts.
- MOBIO – Worked with statewide partners to develop MOBIO – The Missouri Biotechnology Association, which has become a strong statewide advocate for pro-science policies and has helped to develop legislative champions for the biosciences.
In the past year, leading up to the launch of BioSTL, the Coalition facilitated a number of important collaborative efforts to advance St. Louis bioscience:
- September 2010 – Federal “i6 Challenge” grant awarded to regional collaboration led by BioGenerator and including Washington University in St. Louis, Saint Louis University, the University of Missouri-St. Louis, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County.
- October 2010 – BioGenerator Accelerator Labs – innovative pre-incubator shared labs, opened in Cortex.
- November 2010 – Combined CET incubator with Cortex Innovation District.
- January 2011 – Bio Entrepreneur Development (BED) training program launched as collaboration between CET and the BioGenerator.