Collaboration expanded for soybean rust resistance

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Evogene Ltd., a plant genomics company specializing in enhancing crop productivity for the food, feed and biofuel industries, announced the extension and expansion of its multi-year research collaboration with DuPont Pioneer, the seed business of DuPont, for developing soybean varieties displaying resistance to Asian Soybean Rust (ASR).

Soybean is one of the most important commercial crops around the world, supplying protein for human and animal consumption, as well as feedstock for oil production. ASR is a major disease that affects the crop, mostly in the prime soybean growing regions of North and South America.

As part of the original collaboration, signed in 2011, Evogene and Pioneer established a joint research program aimed at identifying and validating novel genes portraying the highest probability for in-plant resistance to ASR. Under the program, novel genes identified by Evogene will be evaluated and validated by Pioneer in their soybean research lines as possible leads for further development and commercialization.

Under the one-year extension announced, the parties will add Evogene's Gene2Product computational platform to the gene discovery program. The platform, which offers gene optimization by utilizing advanced gene stacking (i.e. combining of multiple genes) and regulation prediction, is designed to improve the efficacy and probability of success of the resulting novel seed products.

Ofer Haviv, president and CEO, Evogene stated: "Our Gene2Product platform is a key component of our predictive capabilities aimed at utilizing improved gene efficacy to reduce development timeframes and promote the probability of success of end-products. Under the joint DuPont Pioneer/Evogene ASR program to date, significant progress has been made and an excellent collaborative relationship established. Therefore we are very pleased that Pioneer has chosen to expand and accelerate our efforts by incorporating this recently developed Evogene platform.”

“Asian soybean rust remains a challenge for growers,” said Gusui Wu, senior research director, DuPont Pioneer. “We value our collaboration with Evogene and their technology strengths to help deliver effective resistance to this devastating disease to our customers.”

The original collaboration program included partial funding by the BIRD Foundation, a bi-national foundation which supports and encourages cooperation between Israeli and American companies in various areas of technology.  

Evogene’s current gene discovery activity in the field of biotic stresses (stresses caused by pests such as fungi and insects), is one of the company’s four product divisions.  

Commenting on the potential of the biotic market, Haviv added: “I believe the field of acute biotic stresses holds a significant opportunity for Evogene. This opportunity will be derived from expanding our existing programs, as well as focusing on new biotic stresses that are not currently part of our discovery portfolio."

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