Backers of a new cluster of business incubators in St. Louis hope to make America's heartland a hotbed of new life sciences companies. Five venture capital funds are now operating in an area where risk capital was once a rarity. Three have raised more than $60 million to invest in technology and life sciences firms; two more plan to raise another $300 million.

"It's astounding when you think about it-five funds trying to raise money at the same time, when our kind of money is very scarce in the Midwest," says Brian Clevinger, managing director of Prolog Ventures LLC, a venture capital firm set up to invest in companies nurtured by the St. Louis incubators. "The synergy here in St. Louis suggests we all believe that something amazing is going on." A few years back, few venture capitalists focused their radar screens on St. Louis, even though area employers...

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