Evogene Ltd., a leading developer of improved plant traits for the food, feed and biofuel industries, announced the launch of a novel monocot model plant validation system for evaluation of candidate genes for monocot crops, such as wheat, corn and rice. The new validation system, which uses Brachypodium as the monocot model plant, enables the efficient and rapid evaluation of the performance of candidate genes for improving traits of interest, such as yield and drought tolerance. The system, which has been a high priority infrastructure development program at Evogene for the past three years, is now fully operational and has been incorporated in certain Evogene existing monocot plant collaborations.

In addition to utilizing the new validation system in certain existing collaborations based on Evogene discovered genes, Evogene has begun to enter into agreements with its partners to utilize the monocot model system for validating partners' candidate genes in their pipelines.

Ag-biotech industry efforts to improve traits of interest in key crops require both the prediction by various methodologies of candidate genes, and then the experimental validation of the actual performance of these predictions in plants. Such validation efforts typically begin with model plant systems that offer a much faster and more efficient high-throughput path to initially evaluate and prioritize candidate genes. The prioritized genes, which pass proof of concept in the model plants, will undergo further evaluation in the target crops, such as corn, wheat and soybean.

In the absence of a monocot specific model system in the past, Evogene, consistent with general practice in the industry, has utilized a dicot model plant system -- based on Arabidopsis -- for the evaluation of both dicot and monocot plants. Evogene's Arabidopsis model system has the capacity to validate 1,000 new genes annually under an array of 15 different assays such as yield, nitrogen deficiency and drought. Now, with the addition of the new monocot Brachypodium dedicated model system, Evogene has the unique capacity to provide within one year from gene discovery, and in a high-throughput manner, a complete array of gene validation in model plant, which is data specific for either monocot or dicot target crops.

Evogene's two model plant validation systems strongly complement to its Athlete and related computational based gene discovery capabilities. This combination provides Evogene's researchers and collaborators not only with targeted novel gene discoveries but also with highly specific model systems for the high throughput validation of these gene discoveries, thus resulting in better candidates being selected for further development in the target crops.

"The successful implementation of our novel monocot validation system is an important additional achievement as we pursue our mission of providing the ag-biotech industry with a complete solution for plant trait improvement for food, feed and fuel through combining state of the art biotechnology and advanced breeding methods," stated Dr. Hagai Karchi, Evogene's Executive VP R&D and CTO. "Furthermore, we are pleased to see partner's choice to utilize this unique capability, not only with respect to genes we have discovered, but also for use with its other candidate genes."

Definitions - Monocot, Dicot and close evolutionary relatives

  • Flowering plants are largely classified as either Monocot or Dicot Phylums characterized by generally different plant morphologies.
  • Monocot plants have one single embryonic seed leaf. Monocot plants include three of the most economically important food crops: corn, rice and wheat as well as some of the largest and most familiar groups of plants, such as lilies, orchids, agaves, palms, and grasses. 
  • Dicot plants have two embryonic seed leaves. Dicot plants include important commercial crops such as soybean, cotton, canola and sunflower. In addition, many of the fruits, vegetables, spices, roots and tubers are classified as dicots.