How key sectors and startup hubs are working together to build a brighter future for the region

Background: In 1998, William H. Danforth established the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center to create an innovation hub centered on St. Louis’ strengths in agriculture and plant sciences. The Danforth Center quickly became a gathering place for the field’s top minds and has become the world’s largest independent nonprofit plant research institute, as well as a boon for the region’s economy. In many ways, the center laid the groundwork for St. Louis’ innovation ecosystem, serving as a collaborator and catalyst across sectors.

“Through research and innovation coming out of the Danforth Center, we are bringing new tools and technologies into the marketplace and into the hands of farmers and companies, while at the same time creating jobs and building economic prosperity in St. Louis,” says Stephanie Regagnon, executive director of innovation partnerships.

Anchored by the Danforth Plant Science Center, the 600-acre 39 North agtech innovation district in Creve Coeur consists of established companies, startups, labs, meeting spaces, and incubators such as BRDG (Bio Research and Development Growth) Park, the Helix Center biotech incubator, Bayer Crop Science, and Yield Lab venture capital firm. A decade in the making, 39 North saw an important development last year in terms of its structure: A nonprofit consisting of seven area institutions (including the Danforth Center, Greater St. Louis Inc., the City of Creve Coeur, and Bayer Crop Science) was formed to run the district, developing its own identity and resources to help nascent agtech and plant science companies flourish.

Success Stories: Using the Danforth Center’s lab space, Edison Agrosciences is looking to sunflowers as a source of domestic rubber. The startup’s research piqued the interest of the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator, which accepted it into its 11th cohort. And Cambridge, Massachusetts–based Invaio Sciences recently acquired Peptyde Bio, the first company spun out of Danforth’s Technology Company. READ MORE