Evogene Ltd., a leading company for the improvement of crop productivity and economics for the food, feed and biofuel industries, announced the introduction of its biology-driven platform for the discovery of novel ag-chemicals, with the initial application focused on novel herbicides. The ag-chemical discovery platform includes a new chemical-discovery computational platform, PointHit, and follows the announcement last year of Evogene's target-discovery computational platform, PoinTar. Together, these two platforms, along with a uniquely designed chemical database also being announced today, provide a start-to-end discovery infrastructure for Evogene's rapidly growing ag-chemical program.
Addressing the need for weed control solutions, currently a worldwide market of over $20 billion, Evogene's herbicide discovery program offers a unique approach of integrating predictive biology and chemistry. Last year, the Company launched its PoinTar target-discovery platform, aimed at identifying key plant macro-molecules responsible for essential biological processes in weeds. The new chemical-discovery platform PointHit will utilize the chemical database and the targets identified by PoinTar to discover chemical molecules that inhibit the target within the weed, resulting in weed death.
The combination of these computational technologies, form a start-to-end unique discovery infrastructure leveraging biological rationale to drive predictions for novel chemical herbicide candidates with new 'modes of action'.
Ofer Haviv, president and CEO of Evogene stated: "Evogene looks to provide a powerful new discovery approach to one of agriculture's most critical challenges and largest commercial opportunities. The completion of our chemical database and biology-driven discovery platforms represent a significant building block in our herbicide discovery program. Having put in place the necessary start-to-end infrastructure, with both biological and chemical discovery components in place, we now have the basis to explore 'go to market' strategies and potential collaborations, as well as leverage our infrastructure to address future opportunities in related ag-chemical fields, such as insecticides and fungicides."
The new start-to-end computational infrastructure leverages Evogene's expertise and capabilities in 'big data' integration and analysis developed through its expertise in plant genomics. A key component of this infrastructure is Evogene's new chemical database, currently encompassing over 70 million chemicals, derived from a variety of available sources, including synthetic and natural chemistry. A unique property of the database is its ability to provide computational prediction of the chemical's plant activity, namely the chemical's ability to penetrate the plant and allow the necessary herbicidal effect. The PointHit chemical-discovery platform, mines the huge database in a high throughput manner to identify candidate chemicals predicted to serve as potential herbicide 'hits' with a new 'mode of action'. The platform uses multiple biologically-driven strategies to pinpoint potentially relevant chemistry. In later stages in the program, predicted candidate chemicals will be screened on plants to examine their activity, with the results fed back to the systems to allow a learning process to improve future predictions.
Weeds lead to crop losses estimated at the range of $100 billion annually. The need for new herbicide solutions arises from the substantial and growing resistance of weeds and other invasive plants to existing chemical solutions since no new herbicide 'mode of action' has been introduced in over 20 years (a 'mode of action' relates to the manner in which a chemical affects the plant's molecular processes, resulting in weed death).