May 25, 2021
ST. LOUIS – In its latest round of success in helping St. Louis startups to develop their businesses and product lines and hire new people, BioGenerator, the startup arm of BioSTL, has helped 19 new bioscience companies earn coveted, non-dilutive federal grant funding, largely from the National Institutes of Health.
BioGenerator creates and grows innovative companies through its two complementary approaches — investing through BioGenerator Ventures and providing comprehensive startup support through BioGenerator Labs.
The BioGenerator Labs brings together technology, talent, proof of concept grants, coaching, grant training, and innovative laboratory space in a suite of programs designed to accelerate new ventures. Programming within the Labs trains and supports life-science startups in developing competitive applications for business grants with a particular focus on Small Business Investigational Research/Small Business Technology Transfer grants (SBIR/STTR) and other non-dilutive funding. Many early-stage life-science companies are in need of technical de-risking before they can realistically compete for investment. Others that receive early-stage investment benefit by augmenting dilutive capital with non-dilutive sources. SBIR/STTR and other non-dilutive funding are well suited for these purposes.
Nineteen rising ventures have capitalized on training at the BioGenerator Labs to earn a combined $33.4 million over the past year in nationally competitive grant funding. BioGenerator Labs training has helped drive more than $87 million to St. Louis startups since the grant training programming began in 2015. The startups represent therapeutics, medical devices, diagnostics, digital health and agtech. The past calendar year has seen the largest number of training participants to date.
“BioGenerator tapped into pent-up demand because we saw an immediate, dramatic upward trend in grant wins around the time we developed a unique grant training curriculum within the BioGenerator Labs,” said Harry Arader, Senior Director at BioGenerator Labs. “That trend has consolidated to dramatic ongoing growth year after year with the NIH. We expect continuing accelerating growth as we expand into other agencies, including the Department of Defense, Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and others.”
BioGenerator Labs has boosted Missouri in national rankings of winners of NIH funding. In its first five years alone, the program had advanced Missouri’s NIH SBIR/STTR funding to rank 19th among the 50 states, up from 29th place in 2014. That advancement in rank represents an improvement of roughly $30 million per year in new grant awards, up from a total of $6 million per year before BioGenerator launched the unique program.
For many startups in the life sciences, early non-dilutive funding is critical for bringing emerging technologies from concept to commercialization. SBIR/STTR grants equip companies with resources to conduct pivotal experimental studies and market research to attract the attention of stakeholders such as equity investors and other key opinion leaders in the field.
“BioGenerator has been a foundational pillar of support since the formation of Senseion,” said Rajan Sah, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and CSO of Senseion Therapeutics. “The team’s strategic advice, grant-writing support, and NIH mock panel were instrumental in achieving success for our SBIR I/II application. BioGenerator has been a critical partner beyond SBIR as well, providing market analysis, business development, and intellectual property services that have further established ongoing traction for our mission.”
As part of the suite of offerings inside the BioGenerator Labs at the BioSTL Building, BioGenerator companies can access state-of-the-art research and office space to carry out their work within a community of scientists and entrepreneurs, while also tapping into a team of BioGenerator experts, who provide a pathway for early companies to be able to compete for venture capital funding.
“Many of our best BioGenerator Ventures investment portfolio companies received SBIR/STTR funding alongside our early investments and we’re trying to make that process faster and more efficient for the next generation of startups,” said Charlie Bolten, Senior Vice President of BioGenerator and head of BioGenerator Ventures. “Benson Hill, Arch Oncology, Confluence, and SentiAR are strong companies today where early investment from BioGenerator Ventures was leveraged by non-dilutive federal grant funding during the high-risk period when we were building those companies to the stage where they were backable by outside venture capital.”
“BioGenerator has been a transformative partner for us,” said Tim Peterson, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine and CEO of BIOIO. “They’ve provided the resources and facilities that have been critical to our initial success. We’ve now earned multiple STTR grants, multiple pharma and biotech contracts, along with venture capital by leveraging the connections and mentorship that BioGenerator provides. The St. Louis biotech scene is taking off and it’s in large part due to the ecosystem that BioSTL has built.”
Thirteen of the 19 companies that won awards operate out of the BioGenerator Labs at the BioSTL Building or the BioGenerator Labs in the 39N District, and all 19 have received non-dilutive funding from BioGenerator.
Auragent Biosciences is commercializing an ultrabright fluorescent probe technology from Washington University that can enhance the sensitivity of nearly any fluorescence-based assay including research tools and diagnostic tests. Auragent won $1.7M in NIH funding in 2020 to further develop this innovative and versatile technology platform.
BIOIO is a Washington University company developing therapeutics for aging-related disease. $1.72M in NIH funding will enable the advancement of their AI-based gene and drug target discovery platform. BIOIO is located in the laboratories that BioGenerator operates in the BioSTL Building.
BioRankings is a leader in providing statistical software, consulting and data analysis for clients in the –omics space. Spun out of Washington University in 2013, BioRankings has continued to develop and apply statistical methods to high-throughput, high-dimensional data and work closely with clients to help them meet their R&D goals. $1.6M from the NIH has allowed BioRankings to further develop its statistical and annotation tools in the metabolomics space.
Caeli Vascular is a Washington University spin-out transforming patient care for deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. Its surgical device technology is being advanced in part through a $914k Phase I NIH award received in 2020. Caeli Vascular is located in the laboratories that BioGenerator operates in the BioSTL Building.
Casterbridge Pharmaceuticals received $300k for the discovery and development of small-molecule drugs directed at Hepatitis B Virus. The SBIR award enabled Casterbridge further develop its technology in partnership with Saint Louis University. Casterbridge is located in the laboratories that BioGenerator operates in the BioSTL Building.
CoverCress will employ a $106k grant from the USDA to jump start a new platform focused on developing CoverCress™ protein for food use. CoverCress™ is a new cash crop for the Midwest, developed from the native species of pennycress, that will enable farmers to grow an extra crop over the winter between corn and soybeans. The company works closely with the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and recently built out a new facility in the 39N District. CoverCress is a BioGenerator Ventures investment portfolio company.
Edison Agrosciences is an agtech company focused on new sources of natural rubber that in 2020 initiated a $1M Phase II research contract sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). This STTR research contract will fund further development of Edison’s technology for the domestic production of natural rubber in sunflower plants. Edison is located in the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and the laboratories that BioGenerator operates in the 39N District. Edison is a BioGenerator Ventures investment portfolio company.
Gateway Biotechnology was founded by Washington University researchers to develop and repurpose drugs to combat hearing disorders. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication awarded Gateway Biotechnology $2.2M to evaluate a lead candidate for tinnitus prevention and treatment. Gateway Biotechnology is located in the laboratories that BioGenerator operates in the BioSTL Building.
Gateway Pharmaceutical won $840k in a Phase II SBIR to advance traditional antibiotics for site-specific delivery of treatments to locations where bacteria persist. Gateway Pharmaceutical is located in the laboratories that BioGenerator operates in the BioSTL Building.
Impossible Sensing won $250k from the Department of Energy to build a new platform for soil analysis, then test it in real-world environments.
Kalocyte was established out of Washington University to develop ErythroMer, an artificial red blood cell product for treating life-threatening blood loss when stored blood is unavailable, undesirable, or in short supply. Kalocyte earned a $373k Phase I SBIR from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to continue the development of ErythroMer for hemorrhagic shock. Kalocyte is a BioGenerator Ventures investment portfolio company.
Mitochondria in Motion was founded by researchers at Washington University to develop first-in-class modulators of mitochondrial function for treating neurological disease. The team secured a supplement to a $78k Phase I STTR from the National Institute of Neurological Disease and Stroke in 2020 to hire under-represented talent into their drug development efforts. The award builds on over $700k in previous STTR funding won by the company. Mitochondria in Motion is located in the laboratories that BioGenerator operates in the BioSTL Building.
NOUS Imaging secured three Fast-Track awards from the NIH with Phase I milestones expected to be achieved in 2021. Phase II will unlock significant funding that will enable the company to realize commercialization of its entire suite of FIRMM software. NOUS received FDA clearance for its first application of FIRMM F-MRI in August 2020. Founded out of Washington University, NOUS is pioneering transformational MRI software to transform the way images are acquired and utilized in adult and pediatric populations.
PlatformSTL, in partnership with Washington University, builds advanced software tools that provide value to physicians. A $1.59M award from the NIH will enable the company to enhance and scale Trusted Kidney: cloud-based imaging software for pathologists. Grant funding has enabled PlatformSTL to retain, grow and expand its software engineering and UX team. PlatformSTL is located in the laboratories that BioGenerator operates in the BioSTL Building.
Plastomics won a $256k Phase I NSF SBIR award in 2020. Its next-generation trait delivery technology for ag-tech harnesses the chloroplast to efficiently build higher yielding crops to help farmers feed the growing world population. Plastomics is located in the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and the laboratories that BioGenerator operates in the 39N District. Plastomics is a BioGenerator Ventures investment portfolio company.
Preemie-Pacer was awarded $1.7M by the NIH for its ongoing research and development of a unique feeding device for premature infants who have difficulty feeding orally. The award will be used to design, develop and test the Preemie-Pacer device. This evaluation will include testing at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital.
ProteXase Therapeutics, spun out of Washington University, develops novel cancer therapies to prevent tumor metastasis and prevent resistance to anticancer treatments. Its $300k award is being deployed to conduct critical preclinical studies in models of colon cancer. ProteXase is located in the laboratories that BioGenerator operates in the BioSTL Building.
Sarya won a Fast-Track award from the National Cancer Institute for commercializing its new imaging agents for diagnosing, staging, and treating multiple myeloma. Founded out of Washington University, Sarya is located in the laboratories that BioGenerator operates in the BioSTL Building.
Senseion Therapeutics secured NIH Fast-Track funding for developing novel therapeutics for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) based on technology developed at Washington University. Senseion Therapeutics is a preclinical pharmaceutical company developing therapies for SWELL1-related diseases including diabetes and NASH. The company is located in the laboratories that BioGenerator operates in the BioSTL Building.
BioGenerator, the startup arm of BioSTL, produces a sustained pipeline of successful bioscience companies and entrepreneurs in St. Louis by creating, growing, and investing in promising new enterprises. Visit www.BioGenerator.org for additional information, and follow us on LinkedIn linkedin.com/company/BioGenerator and Twitter @BioGeneratorSTL.
Since 2001, BioSTL has laid the foundation for St. Louis' innovation economy with a comprehensive set of transformational programs that advance St. Louis’ leadership in solving important world challenges in agriculture, medicine, healthcare, and other technology areas. BioSTL has introduced nationally-acclaimed initiatives in startup creation and investment (BioGenerator), strategic business attraction (GlobalSTL), physical environment (including the Cortex Innovation District and BioGenerator Labs), entrepreneur support (Fundamentals), seed and venture capital, a diverse and inclusive workforce, and public policy. Find us online at biostl.org and follow us on twitter @BioSTL.