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New BioSTL Building Aims To Grow Bioscience Hub In Cortex

Taken on July 22 at BioSTL building in cortex during rehab construction.
Corinne Ruff | St. Louis Public Radio

A historic building in the Cortex innovation district is being transformed into a focal point for the St. Louis bioscience industry. At least that’s the intention of BioSTL President and CEO Donn Rubin.

“It’s part of my vision that when a guest to St. Louis comes for a meeting in the biosciences, they will be exposed to not just one company or one entrepreneur, but see an entire community of entrepreneurs — a beehive of startup activity.”

BioSTL this week moves into the rehabbed former Post-Dispatch printing plant, where it signed a 10-year lease as the anchor tenant. The organization will take up about half of the 80,000-square-foot building, now known as the BioSTL building.

There, it will bring together its employees and the BioGenerator Labs, which have operated in Cortex for years. The 60 startups that BioSTL’s investment arm supports will make the move, too.

Rubin said the labs will be at the heart of the building, and the increased capacity will allow it to house up to 90 startups.

Federal funding will help, too. The BioGenerator last month received a $750,000 grant to expand its labs and resources in order to build new ag-tech companies.

“This building is allowing our startup engine to grow,” Rubin said. “Which means we’re going to create even more startups that are going to demand more affordable laboratory space if we want to keep them in this district, if we want to keep them in St. Louis.”

Making sure the BioGenerator remained in Cortex, while allowing it to expand, was a priority for Cortex CEO Dennis Lower.

“Keeping the BioGenerator here in the district is very important to us and the long-term growth of not only the district, but also to support the [Washington University] medical school and its ongoing research efforts,” he said.

Thanks to historic tax credits and TIF financing, Lower said the BioSTL building provides the first lower-cost option for space within the district, giving startups a place to grow in early stages. The hope is that they would eventually be able to expand into Class A office space elsewhere in the district.

“We consider [it a] step-up space for those companies specifically in the bio area,” he said. “We have a few more buildings that we have targeted and are looking at right now to create affordable space for offices and potentially labs.”

The rest of the BioSTL building will fill out with other companies in the industry, including two graduates of the BioGenerator — Confluence Discovery Technologies and Arch Oncology.

Joe Monahan is the founder of Confluence Discovery Technologies, which two years ago became a subsidiary of Philadelphia-based biopharmaceutical company Aclaris.

As the company outgrew its former space, Monahan said he hoped to remain in the district because of its collaborative nature with Wash U and smaller companies. Though he never considered leaving St. Louis, he said he did look at space in the county.

“Our goal was to remain there [in Cortex] if the opportunity presented itself for us to get the space that we needed at the price we could afford,” he said.

The company has been working out of the fourth floor of the BioSTL building since June.

A public debut of the building is slated for this fall.

Follow Corinne on Twitter:@corinnesusan

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org

Corinne is the economic development reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.