Founded by former Monsanto Vice President Jerry Hjelle, Ph.D., Hjelle Advisors is a global leader in agbiotech product pipeline and regulatory consulting, providing a wide array of services ranging from scientific advisory and product validation to on-demand, turn-key regulatory functions.

Sitting in the company headquarters in 39 North’s Helix Center this spring, Jerry remembers the fateful meeting in 1998 where Dr. Bill Danforth shared his vision for the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center with Monsanto’s senior leadership. Jerry had only just relocated from Chicago after Monsanto’s acquisition of Searle, plucked to lead a regulatory function that included oversight of all health and environmental safety and global approvals of Monsanto’s biotech products.

“It was an exciting time.  We had a tremendous team operating at the forefront of innovation and now, 20 plus years later, some of the amazing leaders on that team are part of our consulting network,” Hjelle reflected. “I feel fortunate to work with such amazing people, both then and now.”

One of the company’s first clients was 39N stand-out Covercress, then led by Hjelle’s old friend and former Monsanto head of government and industrial affairs, Jerry Steiner.  Hjelle believes CoverCress is a great example of how a company can turn regulatory from a liability to a core value proposition by incorporating it into product concept and business strategy from the outset. “Jerry Steiner – and current CEO Mike DeCamp – recognize that a regulatory strategy can have a major impact on the success of a company.” Hjelle said. “They took the time to understand regulatory nuances not simply as box-checking exercises, but rather as a core piece to a product’s critical path, from discovery to market.”

In 2017, Jerry and his son Ben (the company’s Vice President) moved Hjelle Advisors out of Jerry’s basement and into the Helix Center – just down the hall from CoverCress.  “We grew up alongside CoverCress,” Ben said. “And 39 North has been the perfect launchpad for us. Here at Helix, I can walk down the hallway and chat with a client one moment and then run upstairs to a lab to check on the outcome of an assay. We have a global presence in consultants, clients and CROs, from Sao Paolo to Ottawa and Brussels to Beijing, to Tokyo, but we call St. Louis home, and are lucky to do so.”

The company hasn’t broken stride since that move to Helix, despite the ongoing pandemic. “A lot of consulting firms have a brick-and-mortar core that needs to be ‘fed’ – we have been a distributed company since day one in 2013,” Ben said, “able to perform the critical tasks of a seasoned regulatory and R&D function at a fraction of the conventional price. The pandemic taught us how attractive the model was to potential hires; while other companies were laying off great people to cover operating expenses, we were standing up a top-notch field team in South America.”

The company doesn’t plan on stopping its growth any time soon, establishing new strategic partnerships with various research and funding entities, both in St. Louis and beyond. “Some companies need a turnkey regulatory function,” Ben said. “We’ve got that covered. Others, like a VC or IP law firm, need to validate a product concept early on. We can do that too,” Ben added, noting the company’s recent partnership with the Yield Lab and their Groundbreakers project, which identifies and funds promising young companies.

It’s an exciting time for 39 North innovators, and with the world’s premier agbiotech regulatory consultants down the street, the future of the district looks even brighter.

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