May. 17, 2016
Evogene and Marrone Bio Innovations Inc. (MBI) recently announced that they have successfully met an important milestone in their multi-year collaboration focused on discovery and validation of novel genes for insect control. In diet-based insect assays, certain proteins demonstrated control activity against several target pest insects, including fall armyworm, a devastating pest that causes annual damage of approximately $1 billion worldwide. Based on these results, selected bioactive proteins are now being advanced by the two companies to plant validation.
The collaboration, initiated in July 2014, and supported by funding from the Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation, aims to bring to market new insect control solutions - seed traits and bio-insecticides - through leveraging the expertise and distinct assets and capabilities of each party. Utilizing Evogene's proprietary computational platform BiomeMiner™ and other predictive discovery capabilities, the two companies were able to pinpoint candidate proteins out of over tens of thousands of proteins identified from MBI's extensive and proprietary microbial collection. The proteins' bioactivity for pest control were then validated in diet-based insect assays by both companies, and a subset of the candidates showed positive insecticidal results.
Ofer Haviv, President and CEO of Evogene stated, "We are very pleased with the advancement of the microbial insecticidal proteins in the pipeline. Teaming our capabilities for predictive bioactive protein discovery with MBI's valuable microbial libraries provides a clear win/win opportunity for both companies, and we look forward to successful development of future plant protection products. In addition, this positive advancement is another indication of Evogene's predictive capabilities in crop protection technology in general, and specifically in insect control solutions."
Pam Marrone, CEO and Founder of Marrone Bio Innovations said, "Increasing resistance of major insects to existing insect control products creates a growing need for novel products with new modes of action, and is the basis of our multi-year collaboration with Evogene. These promising results further demonstrate the synergy between our two companies. We are pleased to leverage our microbial assets into new areas."
Based on the positive results, the parties agreed to advance several novel insecticidal protein candidates, which have met the required test criteria, to model plant validation and to be followed by target crop validation. Successful candidates will then be further developed by Evogene, potentially in collaboration with a seed company, for insect control in crops such as corn, soybean and cotton, while MBI may commercialize the microbials as sprayable bioinsecticide products. The parties have agreed to share revenues from any products that may result from this collaboration.