ST. LOUIS – BioSTL has won a $2.96 million competitive grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce entitled the “Center for National Pandemic Resiliency through Bioscience.” The launch of this new center in St. Louis, with nearly $750,000 in matching funds from BioSTL, will position the region as a laboratory for innovation designed to help U.S. communities prevent, cure and recover from outbreaks of infectious disease and other health-related crises. The Center’s overall objectives are accelerating and piloting innovations that promote future pandemic response and recovery, while creating new economic opportunity, diversifying the local economy, and advancing health and economic equity.
In addition, “The new BioSTL Center for National Pandemic Resiliency in Biosciences will provide the critical laboratory capacity needed to generate and test pandemic response and resiliency innovations,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “It will also model and build economic resilience across the St. Louis region and the nation.”
The new center harnesses BioSTL’s significant existing biomedical innovation and commercialization programs and a foundation built in the St. Louis innovation ecosystem over two decades, focusing these assets toward pandemic response, recovery, and resiliency. These strengths include global innovation sourcing; partnerships in developing physical facilities for biomedical research & development by start-up companies; programs to advance equity and inclusion in bioscience and healthcare innovation and within the startup community itself; and an extensive program and network of expertise in bioscience product development and commercialization.
BioSTL’s new center will leverage these capabilities to capitalize on the research excellence of a range of partners, including Washington University in St. Louis, Saint Louis University, other Midwestern universities, local startups and industry veterans, and its global network of innovators. The Center will leverage the research capabilities of these stakeholders to accelerate the commercialization of technologies designed to predict, monitor, and mitigate the impacts of future pandemics. From its outset, the Center will have a focus on bringing innovation – through BioSTL’s relationships with diverse populations and institutions (urban, suburban, and rural) – into underserved markets and communities to help address health and economic equity gaps exacerbated by the pandemic.
Examples of potential product development and sourcing include diagnostics, novel treatments and repurposing current therapeutics, vaccines, research tools, and population-focused digital health tools that enable disease surveillance, monitoring, contact tracing, rapid testing, informing patients, and more.
Coming on the heels of BioSTL’s launch of a new Center for Defense Medicine, this is the seventh – and largest ever – competitive EDA grant awarded to BioSTL. This award was secured in cooperation the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, which served as the official public sector, political subdivision partner in the application, furthering the Center’s alignment with the region’s most recent Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS).
“Over almost two decades, BioSTL has built the infrastructure needed to develop and commercialize bioscience innovations that improve human health. This year, as the global pandemic evolved, it became clear to us that we have the infrastructure, relationships, and expertise to help provide solutions that will address, monitor, and potentially mitigate future pandemic crises,” said Dr. Eric Gulve, Executive Vice President of BioSTL and President of BioSTL’s investment arm, BioGenerator. “We are deeply grateful that our capabilities have been recognized by the EDA and we look forward to improving the pandemic resiliency of communities in our own region and beyond.”
The Center will focus on four strategic pillars:
BioSTL will hire a new director for the Center, along with business development, community health entrepreneurship, and workforce leads to support the Center’s work.
“This grant will support the crucial work of pandemic preparedness both in St. Louis and across our nation,” said Governor Mike Parson. “BioSTL is located in one of the strongest bioscience innovation communities in the country, and creating 125 new jobs for the center will expand upon the region’s expertise and results-based partnerships.”
BioSTL has identified a number of technologies in the St. Louis region that are examples of innovations that could be applied to the Covid-19 pandemic. For example, Precision Virologics, founded by Dr. David Curiel of Washington University, is developing a formulation to enable simpler delivery and greater efficacy of vaccines via nasal delivery. Independently, startups previously supported by BioGenerator, Aclaris (acquirer of Confluence Life Sciences) and Galera Therapeutics, announced earlier this year that they were launching clinical trials of existing drug candidates for use in Covid-19 patients. Additionally, GlobalSTL has sourced contact-tracing innovation that is being piloted in St. Louis and a remote-care patient monitoring technology for piloting in community-based healthcare settings in both urban and rural underserved areas. The Center will scale capacity and expertise in the region to identify these types of pandemic-related opportunities more comprehensively, scaling them to drive pandemic response and economic growth in St. Louis.
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