Cibus, a leader in developing trait products for agriculture, today announced a sharpened strategic focus. Based on its recent success in developing input traits in the diverse areas of disease, weed control and agronomy, Cibus is focusing its business on developing traits in key input crop categories in the largest global crops: canola, rice, soybean, corn and wheat. As part of the strategic refocus, Cibus has divested its canola seed breeding assets to Farmer’s Business Network (FBN) Canada, a wholly owned subsidiary of FBN, and provided FBN with a license to its canola pod shatter reduction trait upon commercialization.
“The real promise of our technology is the ability to give farmers more sustainable and profitable options to address disease, insects, weeds and climate stress issues,” said Peter Beetham, Ph.D., CEO of Cibus. “The changing environment in farming due to climate stress has revealed the critical need to address these important areas of farming practice, and we believe precision gene editing will be an important tool in this sustainability movement.”
Five Key Areas for Input Traits: Diseases, Weed Control, Insects, Climate Stress and Agronomy
Currently, the principle way farmers address these difficult issues is with chemicals including fungicides, pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer. For high-yielding crops such as canola, rice, soybean, corn and wheat, it is estimated that as much as 60% of total farming cost is for the fuel, fertilizers and chemicals used to overcome these issues.
These crops represent over one billion acres, and these supplemental materials used cost hundreds of dollars per acre. Input and agronomic traits are a critically important tool to both lower the cost of mitigating these issues and reducing the environmental impact presented by farming practices today. Precision gene editing technologies are enabling this significant new global market. Cibus has a goal to be the leading global developer of input traits in each of these four areas, as well as agronomic traits to improve yield.
Five Key Crops: Canola, Rice, Soybean, Corn and Wheat
These crops are the large high-yielding global crops that represent over a billion acres. Cibus has already developed four input trait products in canola and rice, as well as an important agronomic trait: pod shatter reduction in canola. All are expected to launch in the next three to five years. In addition, Cibus is advancing its trait platforms in the other major high-yielding crops: soybean, corn and wheat.
It plans to launch trait products in these crops over the next 10 years. Cibus licenses its trait products to seed companies to meet the needs of customers in varying regions, with the ability to combine multiple traits as needed. Cibus’ goal is to be the leading global developer of input traits in each of these five crops.
“Our recent successes in developing crucial rice and canola input trait products are excellent indicators of the power of our technologies, as well as our ability to introduce significant traits into high-yielding crops,” said Greg Gocal, Ph.D., chief scientific officer and co-founder. “Our platforms and technologies uniquely position us to be leaders in this large and critically important area.”
RTDS: Nature-Identical Traits Achieved Without Transgenes or Recombinant DNA
A key competitive factor in Cibus’ strategic focus is its proprietary gene editing technology platform: RTDS (the Rapid Trait Development System). These technologies target and direct a plant’s natural gene repair process to make small changes without transgenes or integrating recombinant DNA – foreign genetic material – at any stage in the plant’s development.
Cibus has had Fourteen trait products developed using RTDS designated as non-regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Regulatory Services (USDA-APHIS BRS). As a result of this designation, in the US, these traits are regulated in the same manner as traits developed from normal breeding practices.
In addition to uses of RTDS in crops, Cibus has leveraged its RTDS technologies to build two fermentation platforms in yeast and bacteria for bio-renewables, industrial and pharmaceutical use. Similar to agriculture, this critically important area has efficiency and sustainability needs that can be addressed with precision gene editing. Cibus expects to be a leader in food, industrial and pharmaceutical markets.
Shaping Agriculture by Directly Impacting the Environmental Concerns of Farming Practice
Advances in input traits are widely recognized as central elements of the global push to reduce the carbon footprint of agriculture and to building more sustainable, profitable and eco-friendly farming practices. These concerns and the potential solutions from input traits are a driving force in the growing global acceptance of traits. Both the US’ USDA-APHIS BRS and the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy single out gene editing as part of the critical path in addressing concerns from climate change and the use of chemicals in agriculture.