BioSTL gets boost from WUSTL

University partners with BJC Healthcare, St. Louis Life Sciences Project to fund organization dedicated to bringing biosciences jobs to region

Washington University in St. Louis, along with two other organizations, is getting behind BioSTL (evolved from the Coalition for Plant and Life Sciences), a new regional organization to champion St. Louis bioscience.

The university, BJC HealthCare and the St. Louis Life Sciences Project have each committed $2 million per year for five years to the venture, for a combined total of $30 million.

The funding, announced Sept. 27, will forward bioscience company creation and drive economic growth in St. Louis.

These funds will increase the region’s capacity to support entrepreneurs and launch BioSTL, the next step in St. Louis’ 10-year-old collective effort to increase economic activity in the medical and plant biosciences.

“Washington University has long been associated with many high-impact developments from our education and research programs,” Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton says. “However, we are always seeking new opportunities to bring benefit to the region, the country and the world. Our partnership with BioSTL will contribute to our overall goals for this era and will help address the challenges of today and tomorrow.

“BioSTL will create a strong environment for the development of new companies, many of which will be led by talented Washington University students, faculty and alumni,” Wrighton says.

A majority of these new funds will be dedicated to pre-seed and seed investments and associated support for newly created enterprises. These early-stage investments will help transform innovations from local institutions and entrepreneurs into new companies and new jobs in the St. Louis region.

BioSTL will work to develop and attract increased investment capital and experienced entrepreneurs to support the growth of emerging bioscience companies. It will dedicate resources to common needs that collectively benefit local organizations dedicated to advancing bioscience.

BioSTL also is designed to ensure that the St. Louis bioscience community is speaking with a single, coherent voice to the public, policymakers and funders.

“St. Louis is fortunate to have an extraordinary concentration of world-class scientists producing cutting-edge innovations in bioscience,” says Donn Rubin, president and CEO of BioSTL and past executive director of the Coalition for Plant and Life Sciences.

“This new commitment positions the region to capitalize on opportunities to create and attract enterprises and jobs in a significant high-growth, 21st-century industry,” Rubin says.

“This generous initial funding is an important step for St. Louis, which has for years competed with other leading bioscience regions that consistently devote significant resources to commercializing innovation. These new multi-year commitments move our region closer to achieving its full potential,” says BioSTL founding Chairman John F. McDonnell, vice chair of Washington University’s Board of Trustees.

The new organization builds on a decade of work by the Coalition for Plant and Life Sciences, which has been chaired since its inception by William H. Danforth, chancellor emeritus of Washington University.

The coalition has led local efforts to establish necessary elements of an entrepreneurial infrastructure for bioscience development, including: the BioGenerator to generate new companies (26 startup companies to date); CORTEX and BRDG Park to provide lab space; and local venture capital funds to finance company growth.

“The Coalition for Plant and Life Sciences and its many partners have developed extraordinary expertise, results and a true sense of partnership, all for the common good of the region. I anticipate that BioSTL will take this success to an even higher level,” says Denny Coleman, president and CEO of the St. Louis County Economic Council, whose Helix Center incubator will partner with BioSTL.

“Growing the regional economy, fostering an entrepreneurial culture and creating jobs are complex undertakings,” Danforth says. “Adequate funding and collaborative partners are critical elements of success.”

BioSTL will collaborate with the region’s public and private economic development entities, continuing the coalition’s record of partnering with such players as St. Louis RCGA, St. Louis County Economic Council, St. Louis Development Corporation and the Missouri Technology Corporation.