DuPont Pioneer announced a technology license and research collaboration agreement with Vilnius University to further the technical and commercial utility of guided Cas9 genome editing technology. Under the agreement, DuPont receives an exclusive license to Vilnius University intellectual property for all commercial uses, including in agriculture. In addition, Vilnius University and DuPont have entered into a multi-year research collaboration to advance the development of the technology.

“Guided Cas9 is one of the most exciting recent breakthroughs in biology and, through our collaboration with Vilnius University, we’re positioning DuPont to be an early adopter of this promising new technology in agriculture,” said Neal Gutterson, vice president, Agricultural Biotechnology for DuPont Pioneer, the advanced plant genetics business of DuPont. “The superior properties of guided Cas9 assist our scientists to develop innovative and sustainable solutions for growers similar to those realized through marker-assisted plant breeding, but with even greater precision and accelerated development timelines.”

A team of scientists from the Vilnius University Institute of Biotechnology was one of the first groups to discover that the Cas9 protein could be repurposed to precisely edit targeted sections of an organism’s DNA to achieve a specific outcome.  In plants, this can include promoting drought tolerance and disease resistance for protecting plant health and increasing crop yields.

“We are pleased to have had our invention licensed by DuPont,” said Professor Virginijus Siksnys at the Institute of Biotechnology of Vilnius University. “The easy programmability of this customizable system brings unprecedented flexibility and versatility for precise genome editing. We have been and are continuing to collaborate with DuPont scientists to improve the technology further.”

Financial details of the agreement were not disclosed.

Guided Cas9 genome editing technology is one of several CRISPR-derived tools. CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) is a feature naturally existing in bacteria. The guided Cas9 technology used for genome editing differs from the natural CRISPR process used to identify and immunize bacteria. The DuPont patent portfolio comprises more than 60 patents and patent applications related to the use of CRISPR for bacteria identification and immunization. It also comprises patent applications related to the guided Cas9 genome editing technology.