First Plant Genomics Yield Technology Progresses
Mendel has announced that its flagship yield technology has taken another important step toward the market. This technology will be employed by Monsanto in its new soybean yield trait. Last week, as part of its assessment process, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) made available for public comment a petition requesting deregulation of the high-yield soybean trait. Higher-yielding soybeans are aimed at boosting the intrinsic yield potential of the soybean. In addition to developing the underlying technology for the yield trait, Mendel has done critical research to determine the molecular basis for the yield improvement and to support the regulatory approval process. The technology is currently in Phase 3 of Monsanto’s product pipeline.
Mendel and Monsanto have worked together on the development of biotechnology traits for more than a decade in many crops, including corn, soy, cotton and canola. This exclusive collaboration ended in 2011, enabling Mendel to develop and maintain ownership of its new technologies while working with a broader array of commercial partners from the beginning of 2012.
Mendel’s work in this field has enabled it to develop a unique understanding of plant gene regulatory networks (PGRNs) and this is the basis for Mendel’s ongoing discovery and application work across a variety of fields. Mendel is now using its PGRN platform to crack the code of crop performance in the field. While much private and public investment has been made into determining the physical structure of crop genomes, the Mendel PGRN platform instead focuses on the expression of crop genomes, which enables Mendel to translate genomic information into crop productivity traits.
Mendel is now investing substantially to identify new PGRNs for improved yield and resource use efficiency. Mendel has already identified a number of promising and novel PGRNs based on these screens, and is developing a robust patent estate to protect these new inventions.
This new investment has been funded by an inside financing round completed in late 2011, with participation from all of Mendel’s later-stage investors. Key to this investment is Mendel’s shift from an exclusive partnering model to an “open architecture” model in which Mendel will license, co-develop and commercialize products with a broad range of customers across the agricultural industry.