Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

(Courtesy Ayers Saint Gross)

St. Louis has the highest concentration of plant scientists in the world. But the places where they conduct their experiments aren't necessarily the most inviting.

To attract more biotech industries and talent to the area, St. Louis County officials want to remake the areas where researchers work, especially in Creve Coeur, home to Monsanto and many promising startup companies.

That's the idea behind a proposed plant science innovation district that would connect the Danforth Science Center, BRDG Park, the Helix Center Biotech Incubator and Monsanto. The effort also aims to solidify St. Louis' reputation as a plant-science hub. But detailed plans for the area likely won't come until the end of the year.

Jerry Steiner, CEO of Arvegenix, and Toni Kutchan, Vice President for Research at Donald Danforth Plant Science Center discussed new research in the field of bioenergy on St. Louis on the Air.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio

While the typical American may be considering how to use alternative fuel in the form of an electric car or investing in a “smart home” system, big industry is also looking for ways to reduce CO2 emissions through the use of alternative biofuels.

(courtesy Donald Danforth Plant Science Center)

The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center will dedicate a new wing of the facility on Friday. The expansion is called the William H. Danforth Wing, in honor of the founding chairman who helped create the plant science center in 1998.

"Everyone thinks I had a big plan when we started. You know you have to feel your way. That’s what you do in life,” Dr. William Danforth told St. Louis Public Radio. “We’re now far ahead of where I thought we would be when we started.”

Plant Science Innovation District
(Courtesy St. Louis Economic Development Partnership)

St. Louis is attracting more life science companies and startups.

Now planning is underway for a 575-acre innovation district that will be anchored by the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Bio-Research & Development Growth (BRDG) Park, and Helix Center Biotech Incubator.

(courtesy Donald Danforth Plant Science Center)

GMOs -- genetically modified organisms -- are not exactly a controversial subject at the Ag Innovation Showcase.

The three-day annual event is the place where the agriculture industry comes together to talk about new trends and startups to present to potential investors.

Yet this week at the seventh annual showcase at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, there was also discussion around how people outside of agriculture view the technology. The auditorium was packed for a panel discussion called "Transparency Without Prejudice--Bridging the GMO Divide."

(courtesy Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.)

The Ag Innovation Showcase began on Monday at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis. In its seventh year, the three-day event includes panel discussions on trends in agriculture and technology and gives startups a chance to find investors and partners. 

This year, 19 early stage companies will present to possible investors. Those companies are focused on precision agriculture, renewables and sustainables, biological solutions and farming innovations.

(UPI/Bill Greenblatt)

Sen. Claire McCaskill is embarking this week on an agricultural tour of the state.

The Missouri Democrat began Monday with a stop at the Danforth Plant Science Center, a non-profit research institute, in suburban St. Louis. The center’s campus also includes the Bio Research & Development Growth Park (BRDG Park), an incubator that houses and helps develop life science startups.

After touring the facility, McCaskill said such research is key to the future of agriculture.

Peter Raven (left), the President Emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden, and Rudi Roeslein (right), CEO of Roeslein Associates
Áine O'Connor | St. Louis Public Radio

People in urban areas may not think about the importance of prairies. But beyond the asphalt, concrete and glass of the city, is a country rich in prairie land.

But, what is the importance of prairies and how do they affect our everyday lives?

On Thursday's “St. Louis on the Air” Peter Raven, president emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden, and Rudi Roeslein, CEO of Roeslein Associates, joined host Don Marsh to discuss the role of prairies conserving of natural ecosystems and their importance for production of next-generation biofuels.

Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
mshipp via Flickr

Several factors are helping St. Louis make a name for itself as a startup city.

“First of all is talent,” Thomas Osha told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh on Thursday. Osha is managing director of innovation and economic development for Wexford Science + Technology. “Talent trumps everything. That’s why it is the fuel of entrepreneurial activity. Innovation is totally a social enterprise, so the more folks you can bring into that orbit, the more chance you have of being able to scale those entrepreneurial businesses.”

Melanie Bernds, Danforth Plant Science Center

"Precision agriculture" is the trend to watch at this year's Ag Innovation Showcase at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

The Danforth Center’s Chief Operator Officer, Sam Fiorello, said that's a change for the international gathering.

When the Showcase started in 2009, most of the participating start-ups were using genetic engineering to develop crops that could resist pests, drought or other agricultural stresses.

This year, none of the products presented involve GMOs.    

Mikhail Berezin, Washington University

Updated 8/6/14:

The National Science Foundation has awarded $20 million to academic and research institutions across Missouri to study climate change.

Five states, plus the U.S. Virgin Islands, have received one of the NSF’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) grants.

Courtesy Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

Out of all possible locations in the United States, German seed company KWS chose St. Louis as the site of its North American headquarters. What made St. Louis stand out from the rest?

According to Donald Danforth Plant Science Center President James Carrington and COO Sam Fiorello, KWS was attracted to the St. Louis region because of its community spirit and because of the world-class research facilities available at the Bio-Research & Development Growth Park (BRDG Park) on the Danforth Center campus.

Courtesy of Cortex

BioSTL is launching a variety of programs to bring more women and minorities into the field of biosciences. 

The group received a $100,000 donation earlier this year from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation. Some of that money is being used to expand the St. Louis Bioscience Inclusion Initiative, which started in the late 2000s.

Commentary: The Power Of WE

Jun 17, 2014
Sam Fiorello
Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

Years ago when I lived and worked in Washington, D.C., the city was crippled by an intense January snowstorm. My office was a short walk from my apartment so I was able to salvage at least an abridged day of work. While walking home, with snow still falling heavily, I came upon a homeless man named Charlie whom I had seen almost daily in the same spot. When I stopped to ask Charlie if he was OK, he stood transfixed, looking at a few flakes of newly fallen snow on his gloved hand. Charlie smiled at me and said, "Isn't it amazing? Individually these flakes are so fragile.

Courtesy Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

KWS, a German agricultural company, is opening a research center at BRDG Park in the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center’s campus.

The company, which specializes in plant breeding, has 4,800 employees in 70 countries. The new facility will be its first molecular plant research space in North America, hiring 25 positions in the first year and another 75 in following years.

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

Gov. Jay Nixon once again signaled that he might strike down school transfer legislation that passed out of the General Assembly last week. 

Provided by Ms Lyons

The seeds for the St. Louis biotech boom began as early as 1998 when St. Louis leaders recognized a perfect confluence of key ingredients for growth in plant and life sciences: the geographic location in the nation’s cropland; an abundance of scientific research institutions, including Washington University, St. Louis University and the Columbia and St. Louis campuses of the University of Missouri; and many successful scientific companies such as Monsanto, Sigma-Aldrich, Novus and Covidien.

Provided by the center

Condensed from the State of the Center report to the community.

When we started, I dreamed, perhaps romantically, that our center would be part of a major human adventure of the 21st century. We would try to make the most of the wonderful human desire to know how the world really works, in our case how plants really work. This drive to understand, shaped through its evermore powerful modern offspring, science, can help hold off potential environmental disaster. In doing so, we hoped also to bring benefits and perhaps even a little credit to our home community.

(Courtesy of the Danforth Plant Science Center)

The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center announced Friday it has hired four new lead researchers.

Each of the new hires will have a team of at least another 10 scientists working for them, which means the research center could soon add an additional 40 new positions.

Danforth president Jim Carrington says the new scientists will focus on new technologies such as robotics, as well as bolstering the center’s existing research.  

James Carrington 300 PIXELS only
Provided by the Danforth Center | 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: As president of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, James Carrington played a big role in making the independent research institution an integral part of St. Louis’ plant science community.

But Carrington isn’t dwelling on recent accomplishments. Instead, he’s looking to the future of a field that he says is becoming more digital and data-centric.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Sam Fiorello has done plenty to help establish St. Louis as a plant science hub through his work at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. And he's helping the Creve Coeur-based facility grow and expand into the future.

Now Fiorello has an arguably more ambitious goal: convincing his son to come back to the region after he graduates from college in Montreal.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: When Jane Hill came to the Danforth Plant Science Center for the first time last month, she was impressed by what she saw. That's good, considering the distance she traveled.

Hill is the chief executive officer for CropLogic, a New Zealand-based company that provides online crop management services for potato farmers. She was in St. Louis for the Ag Innovation Showcase, which has become a major event for the plant sciences industry.

Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Beacon | 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Tom Laurita had options when picking out a location for his company.

Laurita is part of a cadre of people that started NewLeaf Symbiotics, a small company that seeks to harness a certain type of plant bacteria for commercial use. After considering Boston, North Carolina and several places in California as home bases, Laurita decided the St. Louis area was “the obvious choice.”

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The Danforth Plant Science Center announced plans Monday to build a $45 million, 79,000 square-foot addition to its facility in Creve Coeur that would provide flexible, state-of-the-art labs for more than 100 additional researchers. The center will break ground early next year.

(Courtesy of the Danforth Plant Science Center)

The Danforth Plant Science Center is adding another 79,000 square feet and eventually another 100 jobs.

The St. Louis research institute announced the $45 million dollar project Monday.

The center’s president, Dr. James Carrington, says the new space will be more flexible.

He says that that means cabinets and benches won’t be bolted down, giving room for new research that include automation and robotics.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Genetically modified (GM) crops were on the agenda at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center on Thursday morning with an appearance by environmentalist Mark Lynas. He told the crowd about his own journey from one side of the debate to the other.

Last summer’s drought in the United States, and particularly here in the Midwest, would lead one to ask if there is enough water to meet the world’s needs.  According to Dr. Roberto Lenton, Professor of Biological Systems Engineering and Executive Director of the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, the answer is “yes.”

Alex Heuer / St. Louis Public Radio

Sandra Fluke is an attorney and women’s rights activist.

One year ago this month, Fluke was a law school student at Georgetown University and found herself immersed in a contentious national debate over the role of contraceptive coverage and whether coverage should be mandatory.  Opponents of mandatory coverage cited religious objections.

Sandra Fluke testified about the issue before Democrats in Congress.  After that, conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh called her a “slut” and made other derogatory comments.

Alex Heuer / St. Louis Public Radio

George Will is a Pulitzer Prize-winning political journalist and author.  He is perhaps most well-known for his conservative columns in the Washington Post, which have appeared in the paper since 1974.

Will is scheduled to deliver the fall 2012 keynote speech for the John C. Danforth Center on Religion & Politics at Washington University.

(via Flickr/Alternative Heat)

The National Science Foundation has awarded a local researcher $1.3 million to study the genetics of how corn plants take up nutrients.

The ultimate goal is to reduce the amount of fertilizer needed to grow the ubiquitous crop.

Ivan Baxter, a U.S. Department of Agriculture research scientist and assistant member at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, will lead the research.

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