Sam Fiorello Named President and CEO of Cortex Innovation Community (Cortex)

February 14, 2020

Cortex Innovation Community (Cortex) has announced Sam Fiorello as its next president and CEO. Fiorello will assume the leadership on March 30, 2020, following Dennis Lower, Cortex’s President and CEO since 2010.

To date, Cortex has developed 2 million square feet of office, lab, meeting, and social space that is home to more than 425 established tech companies. With nearly 6,000 employees currently working in the District, it is a vibrant live-work-play-learn innovation community. Employees working at Cortex generated over $1B in direct economic activity in 2018 as well as approximately $250M in state and federal tax revenues.

“Sam was chosen to lead Cortex because he is a proven action-oriented leader with deep ties to the innovation community,” said Henry Webber, Cortex Board Chair and Executive Vice Chancellor at Washington University in St. Louis. “He has a strong track record of recruiting companies from across the globe, and I am confident he will lead the organization into a bright and prosperous future.”

Since 1998, Fiorello has served as Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, the world’s largest independent nonprofit research institute dedicated to plant science; in 2009 he also became president of the Center’s affiliated research park, BRDG Park. 

“It is an honor to join the Cortex Innovation Community,” said Fiorello. “Nurturing entrepreneurship and attracting innovative companies from across the world takes focus and collaboration. I look forward to working alongside other regional entities to help leverage our strengths in discovery and innovation and to create opportunities for all the members of our community. I am convinced that the best is yet to come for Cortex and Saint Louis.”

Fiorello will continue to help establish St. Louis as a nationally and internationally recognized technology hub by commercializing university and corporate research; growing the regional entrepreneurial startup community, and recruiting established national and international technology-related companies. The goals of the Cortex Innovation Community are to attract, launch, and sustain innovative, high-growth employment; to generate new tax revenue and sustainable economic activity across the St. Louis region; and to be the most inclusive innovation community in the United States.

“Sam has been a leader at one of St. Louis’ hallmark institutions; his vision and commitment to the betterment of our region as an active member in the 39 North Innovation District make him well-suited for this role,” noted Rodney Crim, Cortex CEO Search Committee Member and CEO and President of St. Louis Economic Development Partnership.

“Sam’s appointment is a critical step forward for not only Cortex but our entire region,” said Jan Holloway, Co-Chair of Cortex CEO Search Committee. “He has proven himself as a solid leader with an unwavering commitment to equity and inclusion.”

Fiorello’s leadership in establishing a public/private partnership that brought the Saint Louis Community College’s biotechnician training program to the BRDG Park is a national model. The program provides a highly-trained workforce that is critical to growing and attracting bioscience companies in 39 North and the region. The program has a 97 percent placement rate, the majority of graduates have been people of color.

“Cortex’s strong partnerships with higher education institutions throughout the region set it apart from other innovation districts around the country,” said Ken Olliff, Cortex CEO Search Committee Co-Chair and Vice President for Research at Saint Louis University. “Sam’s experience and dedication toward talent development will be instrumental in Cortex’s success.”

Fiorello has been a St. Louis resident for 25 years. He and his wife Rebecca have three children.