ST. LOUIS and DURHAM, N.C. -- Monsanto has established a three-year collaboration with GrassRoots Biotechnology Inc., based in Research Triangle Park, N.C., to source novel genetic elements, including promoters and genes, which can enable crops to express traits that enhance and protect yield.



Promoters are segments of DNA that determine when and where a trait is expressed within a plant. Monsanto will use the promoters sourced from GrassRoots in a broad range of crops, including corn, soy, cotton and canola, to optimize an array of biotechnology traits.



GrassRoots is a start-up company co-founded by Duke University professor, Philip Benfey, a leader in plant biology research. GrassRoots uses a variety of methods, including computational approaches, to identify promoter candidates. Once specific promoter sequences are identified, the information can be further used to design novel promoters for the expression of desirable traits in plants.



"The availability of high-quality promoters with specific expression patterns for use in commercial products is limited, so there is value in developing novel promoters to drive new traits," said Steve Padgette, vice president of biotechnology for Monsanto.



"A robust promoter toolbox can further leverage Monsanto's extensive gene library and lead to the development of more biotechnology-based crop products with a greater number of characteristics such as higher yield, and tolerance to insects, weeds and other stresses," Padgette said.
Such tools will be critical in helping Monsanto meet its sustainability goal of doubling yields in core crops by 2030, he said.



"We will need to use the best technologies available to maximize the potential of these crops," Padgette said.
Another goal of the collaboration is to identify genes that help plants fight environmental stresses such as nitrogen deficiency. The collaboration is expected to build upon Monsanto's research philosophy of developing valuable families of technologies for the challenges farmers routinely face on farm.



"We are excited to form an alliance with Monsanto," said Philip Benfey, president and chief executive of GrassRoots. "Our technologies and expertise combined with Monsanto's commercialization pipeline will provide a means of rapidly moving new genes and promoters into the field."



Monsanto Company is a leading global provider of technology-based solutions and agricultural products that improve farm productivity and food quality. Monsanto remains focused on enabling both small-holder and large- scale farmers to produce more from their land while conserving more of our world's natural resources such as water and energy.



GrassRoots Biotechnology, Inc. is a start-up company based in Research Triangle Park, NC. The company was founded to advance and commercialize technologies developed by co-founder Dr. Philip Benfey in his laboratory at Duke University. GrassRoots' core technology, the RootArray system, makes it possible to monitor gene expression within developing plant roots, thus providing new insight into the mechanism of genetic control of plant development. The RootArray facilitates the discovery of genes and gene promoters that could produce higher-yielding crops better able to withstand environmental stresses, like drought and nitrogen deficiency.



GrassRoots also is developing an energy program to create enhanced biofuel crops. Independently, GrassRoots is developing a bioenergy research program. The company is creating enhanced biofuel feedstocks with increased biomass, more accessible cellulose to facilitate processing, and roots that sequester greater amounts of carbon.



SOURCE: Monsanto Company via PR Newswire.