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The operating principle of St. Louis’ startup community is simple: Bring in companies looking to grow, and empower them to do so. In that mission, the ecosystem succeeded utterly with Adarza Biosystems, Inc.
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The company, which aims to improve early detection of everything from allergies to cancer, began its expansion to the St. Louis area in 2013. While it still maintains a presence in New York, all business operations and manufacturing are housed here.
In the early days after their STL arrival, Adarza employees worked out of the BAL in the Central West End, having received early-stage funding from BioGenerator.
“Certainly there was a lot of collaboration and it was really crucial for us at that time to be able to be in a space where we had the shared facilities and equipment and access to other folks with particular expertise or knowledge who could help us get going,” says Preston Keller, the company’s vice president of business development.
Once rolling, Adarza leased space on the SunEdison campus in O’Fallon. There, thanks to the stability and infrastructure in place, production flourished.
“Our product needs to be manufactured in a clean room environment and there was ample and available clean room space at SunEdison. So the company renovated some space for us and tailored it to our purposes. We moved in in January, and we’re rapidly filling up all of our desks. We’re almost out of space here,” Keller says.
Adarza’s proprietary technology is designed to identify particular biomarkers, which will allow for hundreds of diagnostic tests to be run rapidly through a single silicon chip. SunEdison manufactures the raw materials needed for the silicon chip, which has given Adarza an enormous boost in its expansion.
“With [SunEdison] making them here, and doing a lot of the same or similar processes that we do, it’s been tremendous to have that institutional knowledge surrounding us,” Keller says. “One of the main reasons we wanted to come to St. Louis to begin with was the availability of a lot of these synergies, from these shared resources and the startup infrastructure that was in place.”
That availability is a recent development. Keller, who has both an MBA and a doctorate in neuroscience from Washington University, remembers when the startup landscape was sparse in St. Louis. “There really wasn’t much of a startup scene,” he recalled. “I think there were 3 people in the BioGenerator.”
Having been in the area on and off for more than 15 years, Keller calls what St. Louis has done in the business and technology community amazing. “We’ve seen algorithmic grown in startup infrastructure,” he says.
That growth created an enticing opportunity for Adarza, and catalyzed their expansion once they seized it. “The fact that these resources were here and we were able to tap into them, both in the early days at the BAL and then out here at SunEdison, has certainly smoothed the road and allowed us to move a little bit quicker than otherwise would have been able to” Keller says.