Monsanto Enters Gene Editing R&D Collaboration

Monsanto Co. and Pairwise Plants, an agricultural startup, have announced a collaboration to advance agriculture research and development by leveraging gene-editing technology.

Under the agreement, Pairwise will work in corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton and canola crops exclusively with Monsanto. The companies bring expertise and complementary intellectual property (IP) to a strategic alliance expected to drive new and needed solutions to help farmers produce better harvests, protect crops from evolving threats, and conserve resources in the face of mounting environmental challenges.

Under the companies’ collaboration and licensing agreement, Monsanto would contribute $100 million to access and develop Pairwise IP in row crop applications, including an option to commercialize products resulting from the research collaboration.

“Part of Monsanto’s commitment to delivering new technologies to farmers is recognizing other innovators we can work with to accelerate solutions,” said Dr. Robb Fraley, Monsanto chief technology officer. “We are excited to be collaborating with the pioneers in gene editing at Pairwise to build on the robust body of research driven by our in-house team.”

Pairwise is focused on finding new ways to address global food challenges through a world-class collective of gene-editing and agriculture thought leaders, along with access to foundational gene-editing IP. Pairwise has licensed programmable base editing technology from Harvard University and will be developing new gene-editing applications that Pairwise and Monsanto will apply in their research. Pairwise also plans to develop its own new crop varieties while collaborating with other agriculture and consumer food companies.

“My co-founders and I believe the technologies we have each been developing can have a profound impact in plant agriculture and will speed innovation that is badly needed to feed a growing population amid challenging conditions created by a changing climate,” said Pairwise founder J. Keith Joung. “Base editing technology has the potential to have an enormous impact on the speed and precision with which plant scientists can improve crops, giving researchers the ability to make single nucleotide changes at a precise location in the genome efficiently.”

Pairwise recently closed a $25 million Series A financing co-led by premier venture capital firm Deerfield Management and Monsanto Growth Ventures, the venture capital arm of Monsanto, which are each minority shareholders. The company will be led by Dr. Tom Adams, incoming chief executive officer, and Dr. Haven Baker, chief business officer, with founders Drs. David Liu (professor and researcher at Harvard University and the Broad Institute, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator), Feng Zhang (Broad Institute/MIT) and J. Keith Joung (Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School), each a preeminent expert and inventor of gene-editing technologies.

“Human health care has long pioneered gene-related treatments, successfully advancing responses to our most systemic disease challenges. Pairwise and our partners believe the same is possible for agriculture,” said Dr. Baker, Pairwise chief business officer. “Gene editing can play a critical role in addressing global food challenges through collaboration across companies worldwide.”

For more information on Pairwise, visit www.pairwiseplants.com.

Source: Monsanto

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