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Cortex Innovation Community, Washington University, Saint Louis University Welcome Vir Biotechnology to St. Louis Bioscience Community

December 15, 2021
2021 Illinois Legislative Session

The Cortex Innovation Community, Washington University in St. Louis and Saint Louis University today announced that Vir Biotechnology Inc., a San Francisco-based immunology research company focused on treating and preventing serious infectious diseases, is expanding its presence in the growing St. Louis bioscience community.

Vir’s new innovation lab and offices in Cortex will support the company’s research into the interactions between infectious organisms and the people they infect. In coming to St. Louis, Vir joins a vibrant immunobiology and microbiology research community, which includes world leaders in the study of alternatives to antibiotics for bacterial infections; infections and inflammation in the brain; and the wide-ranging influence of the microbiome — the community of bacteria in our digestive tracts — on health and disease.

“Vir is thrilled to be a part of the thriving St. Louis biotechnology community, which is still a bit of a ‘hidden gem’ in the industry, offering exceptional talent and academic productivity,” said Herbert “Skip” Virgin, MD, PhD, chief scientific officer of Vir.

“Our close proximity to distinguished academic and scientific institutions, as well as leading medical centers, will be an important addition to our ongoing efforts to prevent and treat the world’s most serious infectious diseases,” said Lisa Purcell, PhD, vice president of microbiology and virology at Vir and St. Louis Site Head.

David H. Perlmutter, MD, Washington University’s executive vice chancellor for medical affairs, the George and Carol Bauer Dean of the School of Medicine, and the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Distinguished Professor, said, “We are excited to welcome Vir to St. Louis, which is already home to an impressive list of companies and researchers. We are particularly thrilled that the company’s research efforts are led by Dr. Skip Virgin, former head of Washington University’s Department of Pathology & Immunology. Skip made numerous brilliant contributions to the science of immunology and infectious disease during his 30-year tenure at the School of Medicine.”

Recognizing the advantages of having a company like Vir in the neighborhood, Washington University relinquished some of its space in Cortex to accommodate Vir. Renovation of the space is just beginning. “Having a leading company in the field right next door opens up many opportunities for collaboration and the potential to bring new discoveries to patients much more quickly,” said Jennifer K. Lodge, PhD, Washington University’s vice chancellor for research.

While Vir’s Cortex space is being renovated, Vir’s team has found a home at Saint Louis University, which hosts one of only ten NIH-funded vaccine treatment and evaluation units. SLU’s Center for Vaccine Development studies infectious diseases and treatments, develops new or improved vaccines, and provides rapid-response capabilities in the event of a public health crisis. The Center has conducted pivotal research on vaccines for COVID-19, H1N1 influenza, flavivirus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and tuberculosis.

“It is our pleasure to host Vir on SLU’s campus. Having leading industry scientists in the same building as our leading biomedical researchers provides opportunity to realize scientific synergies even before Vir has fully relocated, opening the door for long-term collaboration,” said Kenneth A. Olliff, SLU’s vice president for research and partnerships.

Vir’s laboratory and office space will be in the @4240 building developed by Wexford Science + Technology in the 200-acre Cortex Innovation Community. Cortex offers access to established and startup biotechnology companies, university technology transfer, entrepreneurial programming, proximity to partners at Washington University School of Medicine, Saint Louis University School of Medicine, and the BioGenerator Accelerator Labs and BioSTL, the region’s hub of biotechnology activity.

“Cortex is thrilled to welcome Vir Biotechnology to the district. Vir’s touchpoints in St. Louis, including with institutions Washington University and Saint Louis University, and Vir’s interest in attracting and developing a diverse workforce mesh perfectly with Cortex’s strategic direction,” said Sam Fiorello, president and CEO of Cortex Innovation Community.

Collaborating to support Vir’s expanded presence in St. Louis were Greater St. Louis, Inc., Missouri Partnership, Missouri Department of Economic Development, St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and St. Louis Development Corporation.

“Biotech was identified in the STL 2030 Jobs Plan as one of five strong clusters with the potential to drive future growth in the St. Louis region’s economy, and anchor institutions like Cortex, the Danforth Center, and 39 North have established St. Louis as a global destination for the sector,” said Jason Hall, CEO of Greater St. Louis, Inc. “Vir’s arrival further highlights our strength in biotech, and we welcome them to St. Louis.”