Monsanto buys Grassroots Biotechnology

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Grassroots Biotechnology, based at Durham, N.C., was purchased by Monsanto through a quiet acquisition agreement in June.

The two companies had been working together for the last three years under a partnership agreement, according to business media knowledgeable of the two companies. published a Monsanto-provided statement explaining how the two companies fit together. "GrassRoots focuses on gene expression and other agricultural technologies that will complement Monsanto's biotechnology research and development work."

GrassRoots was spun out of Duke University by entrepreneurs in 2007. It focused on commercializing technologies developed by Philip Benfey. It was Benfey and Doug Eisner who co-founded the firm, and used a National Science Foundation grant and matching funds grants from North Carolina government to expand the company, Eisner previously told reporters.

Benfey reportedly is staying on as a Monsanto employee, but Eisner is leaving the company. GrassRoots had about 25 employees, and a Monsanto spokesperson indicated all of them, except Eisner, were transferring onto Monsanto payroll.

An original technology agreement between GrassRoots and Monsanto occurred in 2009 with the aim of using the small company’s technology to help Monsanto increase yield potential in crops. The partnership effort was formally extended through the start of 2014, according to the most recent information available from sources.

Among the products and services the company has offered and advertised on its website are gene regulation, root-trait optimization, trait gene discovery and agricultural chemical analysis.

At the time of the original partnership, it was announced that the GrassRoots expression elements had the potential "to optimize an array of biotechnology traits in a broad range of crops, including corn, soy, cotton, and canola." Lauren Ohnesorge, writer with the Triangle Business Journal, wrote, “Grassroots sourced what are called ‘promoters,’ or segments of DNA that determine when and where a genetic trait is expressed within a plant.”


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