Israeli company to open U.S. headquarters in St. Louis

By Eric Berger, Staff Writer

A St. Louis organization that aims to attract Israeli companies to the city has added another name to its list: NRGene, which does research and data analysis to improve plant and animal breeding. 

BioSTL has now brought four Israeli companies to the St. Louis area since it started its recruitment efforts two years ago.   

NRGene, which is based in Ness Ziona, in central Israel, will open an office this spring in the Cortex innovation district in the Central West End. The office will serve as its U.S. base, and the company expects to eventually hire six people. 

By attracting technology startups to St. Louis, the organization enhances the local “innovation ecosystem with new technology and talent that comes from Israel,” said BioSTL CEO and president Donn Rubin. 

The organization brought representatives from the Danforth Plant Sciences Center to Israel in April 2015, where they first made contact with NRGene leaders. That was one of a number of trips to Israel that BioSTL has organized in the last couple years, Rubin said.

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Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and state political and business leaders traveled to the Jewish state last month, and BioSTL organized meetings between the delegation and leaders of Israeli companies that have already opened in St. Louis or were considering doing so.

The state, through its Missouri Works program, has offered NRGene $118,644 in incentives if it meets job creation goals.

“It makes a lot of sense to be in the heartland of the country with companies such as Monsanto and academic groups like the” Danforth Center, Paul Chomet, NRGene’s strategic consultant, said in a statement. “St. Louis is really a cultural hub for this advanced (agricultural genomics) work.”

Rubin said the reason that the organization, which has also started to reach out to companies in Ireland and elsewhere, first dedicated its efforts to Israel is because the country has the “second largest concentration of innovation in the world outside of Silicon Valley. It is highly networked and dense with innovation. It is a place where one can have a significant impact with limited resources.”

Conversely, on the Israeli side, Rubin believes, “It is baked into the Israeli plan from day one to get to the United States to access markets and partners.”

Other Israeli companies to start operations in St. Louis through the BioSTL initiative are: Kaiima Agro-Biotech, Evogene and Forrest Innovations.