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Cortex, WashU, SLU welcome Vir Biotechnology to region

San Francisco-based immunology research company adds to St. Louis' growing bioscience community

December 14, 2021


The Cortex Innovation Community, Washington University in St. Louis, and Saint Louis University have 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 gut 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 the St. Louis site head.

David H. Perlmutter, MD, Washington University’s executive vice chancellor for medical affairs, the George and Carol Bauer Endowed 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 such as 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 10 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.

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.

Collaborating to support Vir in growing its new laboratory and office space in St. Louis were Greater St. Louis Inc., as well as the Missouri Partnership, the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and the St. Louis Development Corp.