Evogene Ltd., a leader in plant genomics underlying crop productivity for the food, feed and biofuel industries, announced a three-year extension of its research collaboration with Syngenta Biotechnology, Inc. The collaboration was established in mid-2009 to identify plant genes providing resistance to Soybean Cyst Nematode.

Plant parasite nematode is one of the most devastating and yield reducing pests affecting agriculture today, accounting for almost $100 billion in crop damages annually. The soil borne parasite is widely prevalent in soybean, attacking the roots of developing soybean plants and resulting in yield losses of between 30 and 50 percent in heavily infected fields. The impact to U.S. soybean growers alone has been estimated to reach $1.3 billion annually.

The three year collaboration extension follows successful results obtained by Syngenta for candidate genes provided by Evogene as part of the original collaboration. Candidate genes have demonstrated reduced nematode infection and have advanced to further testing in Syngenta's soybean pipeline for potential development and future commercialization of improved soybean seeds.

“Nematodes are one of the most underdiagnosed plant diseases dearly in need of new technological solutions,” said Michiel van Lookeren Campagne, Head of Biotechnology for Syngenta. “We believe that through our collaboration with Evogene, we will be able to bring new offers for nematode control to growers more quickly.”

Under the extended collaboration, Evogene will utilize broader discovery strategies to provide Syngenta with additional candidate genes acting under new modes of action to achieve nematode resistance. Furthermore, Evogene will utilize its proprietary PlaNet technology, part of Evogene’s integrated Gene2ProductTM platform, to predict the most promising candidate genes for stacking (i.e. combining of multiple genes) in order to further improve product efficacy.

“We are very pleased by both the results achieved to date with respect to soybean cyst nematode resistance and our continuing and expanding relationship with Syngenta, and are confident that the combination of our discovery capabilities and Syngenta’s development expertise will result in novel paths to address this devastating pest,” said Ofer Haviv, President and CEO of Evogene. “The agreement extension is an important addition to our growing activities in addressing biotic stress conditions, such as nematodes and other plant parasites, where Evogene has built significant capabilities for identifying novel genes to combat the variety of acute biotic stresses affecting the world’s key crops.”

Under both the original agreement and the extension, Evogene is entitled to receive research payments, success-based milestone payments and future royalty payments based on the sale of resulting products by Syngenta.