By Donn Rubin
President and CEO of BioSTL
St. Louis, MO is a leading bioscience center. Donn Rubin, President and CEO of BioSTL explains why.
St. Louis is fortunate to have an extraordinary convergence of corporate, university, and entrepreneurial strengths in bioscience. Coupled with the region’s straightforward professionalism, capital efficiency, and supportive and collaborative spirit, these assets set St. Louis apart as a leading bioscience center.
St. Louis has long enjoyed an astonishing concentration of world-class scientists in medical and plant sciences, making it a world leader in academic and corporate bioscience research and development. However, for many years, the region lacked robust infrastructure to fully capitalize on local discoveries and innovations to capture the economic benefit, attract additional talent to the region, and create lasting economic growth. To address this critical need, BioSTL and its predecessor, The Coalition for Plant and Life Sciences – which was led since its 2001 inception by Dr. William H. Danforth, Chancellor Emeritus of Washington University – have worked over the past decade organizing business, university, and philanthropic leaders around a set of deliberate strategies to capitalize on St. Louis’ strengths and to position the region as a leader in the high-growth sector of biosciences.
That is why it is so exciting for me and for BioSTL to announce an expanded partnership with The Monsanto Company. Monsanto has long been a key asset in St. Louis’ bioscience community, and this new 5-year, $2.5 million commitment will bolster regional prosperity in St. Louis by allowing BioSTL to step up its collaborative efforts aimed at building a strong bioscience ecosystem that capitalizes on St. Louis’ plant and medical science strengths.
Since its inception, BioSTL’s work has been guided by the BioSTL Coalition, a broad-based collaborative group of St. Louis civic, academic, and business leaders who shape the work of BioSTL. In the early years, St. Louis’ bioscience effort was led by volunteer civic leaders. Retired banker John Dubinsky chaired a facilities committee whose work resulted in the founding of Cortex, an urban innovation community in midtown St. Louis. Insights from the committee also helped to inform Dr. Danforth’s work to establish BRDG Park, the commercial development adjacent to the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. Civic leaders involved with a capital committee – working with local venture capital fund managers and regional institutions – helped organize early commitments to the first locally-managed life science venture capital funds. Since 2001, St. Louis has grown from zero to over $1 billion in bioscience venture capital under local management.
One of the things we are most proud of at BioSTL is the creation of the BioGenerator, in part to plug a gap at the earliest end of the capital needs continuum – the commercialization funding gap. The BioGenerator, a nonprofit subsidiary of BioSTL, has since matured into much more than a solution to a capital formation gap, coupling its investments with in-depth management expertise and access to labs and equipment to create a pipeline of successful startups. The BioGenerator has launched and invested in over 40 companies, which have raised over $150 million in additional funding, and was named a “Best Practice in the Western Hemisphere” by the Organization of American States.
Today, BioSTL continues its role as a facilitator and catalyst in developing the regional infrastructure necessary for successful growth of an emerging bioscience cluster. Chaired by retired chairman of McDonnell Douglas, John McDonnell, BioSTL’s current efforts focus on: new company creation and entrepreneur support (through the BioGenerator); company attraction (U.S. and international); improving access to investment capital (public, angel, and venture capital); ensuring appropriate physical infrastructure (labs, incubators, and research districts); government relations and public policy (federal, state, and local); fostering an inclusive pipeline of entrepreneurs; and communicating the region’s strengths.
Through its long-time commitments to the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, its founding sponsorship of the BioGenerator, its support of Dr. Jim McCarter, an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) at Monsanto also serving as an EIR in the community with BioGenerator, and now with this generous gift, Monsanto solidifies its role as both an anchor asset of the region’s bioscience community as well as key supporter of efforts that will help to advance St. Louis’ economy and grow the region’s reputation as a world-class bioscience hub.