Valent BioSciences Corporation (VBC)  and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center today announced the finalization of a multi-year, Master Cooperation Agreement in the area of root science and the rhizosphere. Located in St. Louis, Mo., the Danforth Center is among the world's preeminent institutes for research and innovation surrounding plant science and associated technologies. VBC is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sumitomo Chemical Company and a global leader in the research, development, and commercialization of biorational technology for agriculture, public health and forestry.

"We are pleased to be entering into this agreement with a partner that has such demonstrated success in plant science innovation”, said James Carrington, Ph.D., president of the Danforth Plant Science Center. "We view our imaging work as a potentially game-changing technology that warrants a collaborator with a global view and a full complement of proven, effective technologies to help us improve the human condition through plant science. VBC was our first choice."

Until now, the only way for plant scientists to observe in-field root development has been to extract them from the soil. For the first time, today's advanced imaging technology allows real-time data gathering in a way that is non-destructive and non-disruptive to future plant development.

The agreement is designed to maximize outcome potential by intersecting core competencies from within the two organizations. The Danforth Center focuses on discoveries and technologies for improving agricultural productivity with minimal environmental impact including new research on non-destructive imaging technology for root growth dynamics. Over the last two years, VBC has made sizeable commitments to rhizosphere technologies including the acquisition of Mycorrhizal Applications, LLC (MA) and several licensing and research agreements designed to accelerate its root zone portfolio.

"It was an honor to be approached by the Danforth Center as a collaborator for this significant body of work," said Dr. Warren Shafer, Vice President of R&D and Regulatory Affairs for Valent BioSciences. "There is an obvious overlap in mission and purpose between the two organizations, and our knowledge and respective technologies are clearly complementary. Together, they hold tremendous potential for our stakeholders."

Danforth Center Principal Investigator Chris Topp, Ph.D., was recently awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation to support his work combining root phenotyping  technologies with computational analysis, quantitative genetics and molecular biology to understand root growth and physiology. The NSF and VBC agreements will jointly fund a large-scale X-ray imaging system for non-invasive root measurements, the first of its kind dedicated for plant science in the U.S. academic research sector.

Through MA and SyMyco Inc., a joint venture in which MA participates, VBC brings the world's foremost experts in the study and propagation of mycorrhizae – beneficial fungi that colonize plant roots to enhance nutrient uptake and water efficiency. VBC also has research agreements in place with BioMar, LidoChem, and Rhizobacter, all established leaders in emerging biorational technology for the rhizosphere and beyond.