Agreement signed for access to RIPE intellectual property

The University of Illinois (Illinois) and Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC, have signed an agreement to implement a commercialization strategy for intellectual property developed under the "RIPE: Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency for Sustainable Increases in Crop Yield" project, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In the context of this project, Illinois is collaborating with seven other institutions to improve photosynthetic efficiency in food crops in an effort to help resource-poor farmers increase their sustainable yields.

The Illinois and Syngenta collaborative partnership brings leading academic groups working in the area of photosynthesis together with a major agriculture industry partner to evaluate and advance the technologies developed by the RIPE project. Syngenta will serve as a commercialization partner by providing research materials and facilities to support RIPE project goals, as well as bring the industry perspective for bridging key, fundamental photosynthetic research to commercial product development.

Mitchell Altschuler, former Intellectual Property Manager for the Energy Biosciences Institute at the University of California-Berkeley, will be the RIPE Intellectual Property Officer. He will work to ensure that RIPE inventions are protected for commercial development in a manner that is consistent with Gates Foundation objectives.

The collaboration is the first of its kind for a Gates Foundation-funded project. Both Illinois and Syngenta, as well as all of the RIPE collaborators, are truly excited about the potential collaborative opportunity created by this partnership. It ensures that products, technologies, and services are promptly and broadly distributed to developing nations while reserving potential IP rights in developed countries.

"The translational science and product development experience of Syngenta complement the research capabilities of the world-class academic partners brought together by the Gates Foundation in the RIPE consortium. This partnership increases the chance of breakthroughs in photosynthesis research resulting in new high yielding crop varieties for growers in both the developing and developed world," said Ian Jepson, Head of Plant Performance Biology for Syngenta.

Michael Nuccio, the Syngenta RIPE Project Director commented, "This is an exciting bridge between basic and applied research. It represents a fast track to facilitate delivery of important new discoveries in plant productivity to the people who would benefit the most, which speaks directly to the first commitment found in the Syngenta Good Growth Plan. We've committed ourselves to increasing crop yields by 20 percent without using more land, water or inputs."

"This is a win-win-win deal, the synergies giving the academic partners, Syngenta and the Gates Foundation, benefits that none of the partners alone could gain," said RIPE Project Director Steve Long, who is a Gutgsell Endowed Professor of Crop Sciences and Plant Biology at Illinois. "It is a unique alliance that will accelerate the cause of increasing global crop yield potential, and provide a new model for industry-academia collaboration for the mutual benefit of society and industry."

Associate Project Director Don Ort, Robert Emerson Professor of Plant Biology at Illinois and USDA-Agricultural Research Service Research Leader at Illinois, noted that in the search for photosynthetic traits to improve crop yield potential, there is a huge gulf between proof of concept discovery and delivering traits to farmers' fields.

"This partnership with Syngenta will be invaluable to RIPE in navigating the many obstacles that typically hinder implementation of RIPE discoveries to practice and make a difference for farmers," he said. "Syngenta's experience and expertise in evaluating RIPE discoveries for commercialization potential will be critical in helping us focus our efforts in the most promising directions."


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