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New Helix Center Incubator Welcomes Biotech and IT Start-UPS

St. Louis Commerce Magazine
May-June 2012
by Laurie Burstein

Help for new bioscience and bioinformatics companies, including much-valued wet lab space, is growing in the St. Louis region with the opening early this summer of the Helix Center Biotech Incubator.

Designed for start-up companies, the Helix Center is located at the hub of biotech research, innovation and commerce near the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, BRDG Park and Monsanto Co. headquarters in Creve Coeur. The 52,000-square-foot office building was purchased for $2.4 million and has been renovated and outfitted by St. Louis County for a total project cost of $7.5 million.

The incubator will provide new bioscience and technology companies with affordable, high-quality wet and dry labs and offices along with access to a variety of equipment housed in a dynami entrepreneurial environment, says Beth Noonan, vice president of bioscience and technology in the
business and development division of the St Louis County Economic Council.

Geared to companies with a technology, medical, plant or agricultural bent, the Helix By Laurie Burstein Center provides competitively priced space for research, commercialization and growth, Noonan says.

Amenities at Helix Center include:

  • Labs equipped with fume hoods or snorkels, hazardous materials storage cabinets, sinks and eye wash stations and select casework
  • Shared lab resources, including freezers, autoclave, and glass washing equipment, ice machine, water purification system and tissue culture room
  • Conference rooms for meetings, community kitchen and gathering area, shower and bike storage room
  • Energy efficient systems, daylight views and skylights

"The incubator environment provides an inviting space for start-up companies to interact and connect with one another. Plus, Helix Center tenants will have access to all kinds of business resources and equipment that might not otherwise be affordable," Noonan says.

She adds that the unique location near the Danforth Center, BRDG Park and Monsanto, gives Helix an advantage.

"We really see this as a continuum of growth and development by combining the research piece at the Danforth Center, the incubator piece of Helix Center, while companies can later graduate to BRDG Park," she says. "Being associated with all these entities really makes for a collaborative environment."

Helix tenants will also have access to some of the programs and potentially the scientists at the Danforth Center along with greenhouses and other resources. Plus, Helix tenants can take advantage of working with biotech students at the BRDG Park/St. Louis Community College Center for Plant & Life Sciences program and receive free or low-cost business consulting services such as mentoring, lead generation, business training, legal services and more.

"Having a biotech incubator for early stage start-ups next door to the Danforth Plant Science Center is not only an advantage for entrepreneurs, it is good for us and for the future of BRDG Park, which serves
emerging, post-incubator companies," Danforth Center COO and BRDG Park President Sam Fiorello says.

Access to funding is another advantage. Tenants and non-tenants alike can apply for funding from the $1.5 million Helix Fund. Overseen by the St. Louis County Economic Council, the fund provides capital for early stage bioscience companies.

"Along with providing biotech companies with their first space, and technical and business support, the goal of the Helix Center is to help nurture and grow biotech start-ups and expand this segment in our community by creating employment opportunities and new businesses," Noonan explains.

This is the fifth incubator program started by the St. Louis County Economic Council and one of the few wet-lab spaces for lease in the area, including the Center for Emerging Technologies and and IT Enterprises at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Only 10 biotech incubators operate throughout
Missouri, according to the Missouri Life Sciences Project.

"St. Louis County has shown leadership and vision in establishing the Helix Center Biotech Incubator and Helix Fund to support the continuum of growth of the plant and life sciences hub here is St. Louis," Fiorello says.