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  • By Lynda Kiernan-Stone, Global AgInvesting Media

Monsanto Announces Three Strategic Partnerships

As the decline in global commodity prices has been putting pressure on seed and crop input companies in recent years, Monsanto has been striking strategic partnerships that will foster new opportunities for growth for the company.

Monsanto announced a new global agreement struck with Sumitomo Chemical Company for the purpose of developing and delivering next generation weed control systems within the PPO-herbicide tolerance sphere.

Still in the early stages of research, Protoporphyrinogen oxidase (PPO) is an enzyme in the chloroplast cell that oxidizes protoporphyrinogen IX (PPGIX) to produce protoporphyrin IX (PPIX) that is a key molecule for chlorophyll, which is needed for photosynthesis.

Under the terms of the partnership, Monsanto and Sumitomo Chemical will closely align their work to create an integrated system of germplasm, biotechnology, and crop protection including the coordinated efforts on behalf of both companies to develop, register, and commercialize Sumitomo’s PPO chemistry and its next generation PPO herbicide for use in Monsanto’s future weed control systems.

Through the agreement, the new PPO product line will be commercially available during the beginning of the next decade under brands marketed by both companies, pending all regulatory approvals.

“This next-generation PPO herbicide has remarkable broad spectrum effect against both grass and broadleaf weeds, which will make it an excellent, complementary addition to the Roundup Ready platform,” said Robb Fraley, Monsanto executive vice president and chief technology officer. “The product’s low use rate, together with a unique mode of action effective against resistant PPO weeds, will be valuable to corn, soy and cotton growers.”

Within the same day, Monsanto has also announced multiple seed technology partnerships, involving gene-editing technology collaborations with Nomad Bioscience and TargetGene Biotechnologies Ltd.

Referred to as being the biological equivalent to the “search and replace” function in computer word-processors, gene-editing technologies offer scientist the ability to integrate specific genes as well as the opportunity for targeted enhancement of beneficial traits or the removal of plant characteristics that are seen as a liability.

“Monsanto has conducted extensive research with various gene-editing approaches for years, and we believe access to TargetGene’s technology will help drive further precision and efficiency within the company’s robust plant breeding and biotechnology pipelines”said Tom Adams, biotechnology lead for Monsanto in a company statement.

Under the company’s agreement with Israel-based TargetGene, Monsanto will gain exclusive license to TargetGene’s proprietary “T-GEE” (Genome Editing Engine) platform of RNA-guided gene-editing technology. As part of the deal, Monsanto has also negotiated an undisclosed equity position in the private company.

“In a time of increasing environmental challenges and a growing global population to feed, this science has never been more important,” said Dr. Yoel Shiboleth, chief executive officer of TargetGene in a recent statement. “TargetGene is pleased to be working with Monsanto to enable the next generation of agricultural innovation through the application of our genome-editing technology."

Additionally, Monsanto announced a strategic partnership with Nomad Bioscience GmbH through which Monsanto will have the right to apply Nomad’s proprietary technology to Monsanto’s gene editing initiatives undertaken to improve agricultural crops.

The negotiated terms include a three year research project through which Nomad scientists will continue to advance its gene editing technology while Monsanto’s teams will maintain the right to apply the technology to their projects during the three year term.

The ability for plant breeders to deliver plant hybrids in a more rapid and efficient manner is being seen as a key factor in the advancement of plant biotechnology.

"Our approach greatly increases both the efficiency of genome editing and the ability to deploy edited traits in commercial varieties, which could prove to be beneficial to the speed and scale at which potential products are developed,” said Dr. Yuri Gleba, chief executive officer and Nomad founder.

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