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DEPT. OF COMMERCE PUTS FAITH (AND FUNDS) INTO STL PLANT SCIENCE CLUSTER


The third sub-mission point of the Danforth Center is to improve the St. Louis region as a world center for plant science, and while the Danforth Center itself is a non- profit, the economic gains that it fosters extend into other non-and for-profit organizations.


In a grant announced in July of 2010, the U.S. Department of Commerce awarded $4.6 million to the St. Louis Economic Council and the Danforth Center. This award was due in large part to the Center and BRDG Park’s placement at the epicenter of the burgeoning plant and life science node.


The majority of the funds went to the St. Louis Economic Council, which is using the money to create a “pre-feeder incubator” called the Helix Center, to be built just west of the Danforth Center’s campus.


The Helix Center will foster start-up companies and ideas that are so early in their formation that they are not yet ready to transfer to the larger plant/life science incubator BRDG Park, located on the Danforth Center’s campus.


“This is yet another asset and amenity in our tech cluster. The Helix Center is a space that can accommodate very early stage ventures, featuring technology that might be too financially risky to test out otherwise,” said Sam Fiorello, COO of the Danforth Center and President of BRDG Park.


Two million dollars of the grant will go toward building the Center’s third greenhouse. Groundbreaking is expected to begin in 2011.


In September 2010 the U.S. Department of Commerce showed further confidence in the region by naming St. Louis as one of six recipients of grants for technological innovation. St. Louis’ $1 million i6 Challenge grant is the only award of the six that includes a plant science component.


The St. Louis collaborative, which is led by BioGenerator and includes groups such as St. Louis University and the Coalition for Plant and Life Science, will use the funds to support early stage life science technologies developed by the region’s research institutions and entrepreneurs. This type of early-stage funding is crucial for advancing promising companies to the next stage of capital investment and will lead to new businesses and job creation in the region.


“This was a very competitive national process,” said Fiorello, referring to the i6 grant. “We had to compete with hundreds of other regions, and the fact that we came out on top is really great third-party validation that our idea and our concept is right and worthy of funding… I also believe that the Danforth Center and BRDG Park’s leading position in the plant- tech space helped add a dimension of uniqueness to our application.”


Developing our Discoveries 15


“WE HAD TO COMPETE WITH HUNDREDS OF OTHER REGIONS, AND THE FACT THAT WE CAME OUT ON TOP IS REALLY GREAT THIRD-PARTY VALIDATION THAT OUR IDEA AND OUR CONCEPT IS RIGHT AND WORTHY OF FUNDING.”


- SAM FIORELLO, COO OF THE DANFORTH CENTER, PRESIDENT OF BRDG PARK


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