Evogene Ltd. (NASDAQ:EVGN) (TASE:EVGN), a leading biotechnology company developing novel products for life science markets, and Marrone Bio Innovations Inc. (MBI), (NASDAQ:MBII), a leading global provider of bio-based pest management and plant health products, announced today advancement of genes into Phase I in their insect control collaboration following positive results in model plants.
Novel genes isolated from MBI’s microbial assets were discovered as part of Evogene’s Ag-Seeds division collaboration with MBI and showed insecticidal activity against numerous insects from the Lepidoptera and Hemiptera orders in model plants. Selected genes are now being advanced to soybean validation in greenhouse and field trials. Soybean is one of the most valuable crops in the world with the current soybean seed market estimated at $8 billion and the soybean insecticide market estimated at $2.5 billion annually1.
The Evogene Ag-Seeds division and MBI insect control collaboration was initiated in July 2014 with the mission of bringing to market novel microbe-based insect control solutions viz. seed traits and bio-insecticides. The Collaboration, which was supported with funding from the Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation, is based on the utilization of Evogene’s Computational Predictive Biology (CPB) platform for the analysis of genetic potential of MBI’s extensive and proprietary insecticidal microbial collection.
Incorporating deep scientific understandings and advanced computational technologies, such as machine learning and other predictive discovery capabilities, the CPB platform successfully identified a group of microbes containing candidate genes, which were validated against multiple insect species in model crops. Selected candidate genes will now be further developed by Evogene’s Ag-Seeds division, as an insect control seed trait in crops such as corn, soybean and cotton, while MBI has the continuing right to develop and commercialize the microbials as bioinsecticide products. The companies have agreed to share revenues from any products that may result from this collaboration.
Ofer Haviv, President and CEO of Evogene stated, “The contribution of our CPB platform has proven invaluable to the rapid progress achieved in our insect control product pipeline. Teaming with MBI has significantly contributed to this progress and we look forward to continuing our efforts, for the development of novel microbial based products.”
Dr. Arnon Heyman, Evogene VP and GM, Ag-Seeds stated: “We are very pleased to announce an additional phase advancement in our insect control program, with initial insect control protein genes against the Hemipteran insect order. With this latest achievement, we now have candidates advanced to Phase I for all major pest insect orders: Coleoptera (beetles), Lepidoptera (caterpillars) and Hemiptera (sucking bugs). The results we achieved in model plants are progressing to the next step – soybean validation in greenhouse and field trials and could also be applicable to cotton. We look forward to continuing our fruitful relationship with MBI.”
Dr. Pam Marrone, CEO and Founder of Marrone Bio Innovations said, “We are quite pleased at the success of this project from conception to validation in a short time based on the expertise of both companies – that you can effectively mine pre-screened microbial collections and find active protein genes.”
Dr. Amit Vasavada, MBI’s CTO and Sr. VP of R&D, added, “This collaboration has been a model for how two companies can work together to achieve significant results in a short time.”