GrassRoots Biotechnology and Monsanto Co. have agreed to extend their existing three-year research collaboration for an additional two years through January 2014. The alliance will build upon the success of the current collaboration, focusing on the design and development of promoters that enable crops to express trait genes that enhance and protect yield.
Promoters are segments of DNA that determine when and where a trait gene is expressed. Monsanto is expected to use expression elements sourced from GrassRoots to optimize an array of biotechnology traits in a broad range of crops including corn, soy, cotton, and canola. The agricultural biotechnology industry still relies heavily on a few promoters that were discovered 20-30 years ago. These workhorse promoters cannot confer the precise, tissue-specific control of gene expression that will be necessary for the development of the next generation of biotechnology crops. These next generation crops that are better able to tolerate biotic and abiotic stresses will be critical to feed the world’s growing population and meet its demand for fiber and fuel.
GrassRoots employs a computational biology approach for promoter discovery that relies on the generation and analysis of high-resolution expression data sets from both model systems and commercial crops. Promoters are then characterized with the patented RootArray technology. The RootArray enables researchers to monitor gene expression in the roots in 3D over time, and under different environmental conditions.
“The goal of GrassRoots’ expression element research and development is to produce a tool kit of different genetic elements that can be combined to predictably and reliably control gene expression,” said Dr. Philip Benfey, GrassRoots’ CEO and Co-founder.
GrassRoots’ alliance with Monsanto gives GrassRoots access to Monsanto’s product development and marketing expertise that will help GrassRoots speed the commercialization of its promoters. Dr. Benfey further commented, “Monsanto’s decision to extend the alliance underscores the importance of enhanced promoters for new biotechnology crops and also validates the research that GrassRoots is conducting in this area.”