Genome editing technology is anticipated to reduce regulatory hurdle and improve market access
Rehovot & Rosh Hanikra, Israel – September, 2017 – Evogene Ltd. (NASDAQ, TASE: EVGN), a leading company for the improvement of crop productivity, and Rahan Meristem (1998) Ltd., a leading fruit biotechnology and breeding company, announced today positive results in 2nd year field trials in banana demonstrating efficacy against Black Sigatoka disease. The parties also announced their agreement to utilize revolutionary genome editing technology to leverage genomic knowledge gained from the field trials for the joint development of a potentially safer and healthier product, for both growers and consumers. The end product is targeted to be classified as non-GMO, which might significantly reduce regulatory barriers and improve market access.
Bananas constitute one of the world’s most valuable food staples, estimated at over $2.5 billion annually. Unfortunately, Black Sigatoka affects over 50% of the crop, reducing yields by 35%-50% and leading to an estimated addition of 15-20% to final retail prices. Current methods to control Black Sigatoka include chemical fungicide applications, with the frequency of such applications steadily increasing due to resistance, that may lead to environmental and health effects. A Black Sigatoka resistance trait in banana is expected to lead to higher yields along with safer growing practices and a healthier banana for consumption with reduced chemical residual.
Utilizing its predictive biology computational platform, Evogene has successfully identified a number of genes, mostly of wild banana origin, predicted to have high efficacy against Black Sigatoka. Following these predictive results, Rahan validated the efficacy of several genes in two field trials, both of which exhibited an effective reduction of disease symptoms on banana trees. Rahan is continuing with gene validation, with 3rd year field trial results anticipated late next year.
In parallel, this proprietary information will be the “blue-print” for the parties genomic editing efforts, with Evogene identifying specific genome edits expected to impact disease resistance against Black Sigatoka, and Rahan performing the genome editing and field validation.
Ron Diner, Rahan Meristem’s CEO, stated: “We are excited to initiate this new chapter in our collaboration with Evogene, a company with deep biological knowledge and strong computational capabilities. Employing genome-editing technology in banana, combined with Rahan’s unique propagation know-how and vast banana seedlings production lines, will bring new value to the entire chain of production, while shortening time to market, and presenting an improved end-product.”
Ofer Haviv, Evogene’s President and CEO, stated: “This is an excellent example of how Evogene, with its unique and broadly applicable predictive biology platform, and leading companies in plant based industries can collaborate to develop novel products meeting key unmet market needs. In this case, we are very proud to be partners with Rahan Meristem, a world-leading expert in banana propagation and breeding, in addressing the number one unmet, and currently devastating, need in banana cultivation. We are also very pleased to now leverage the proprietary genomic knowledge we have gained to date with respect to Black Sigatoka resistance in bananas through the utilization of very powerful genome editing technology; a technology which potentially offers both a much reduced time to market and a superior product.”
About Genome Editing:
Genome editing technologies present a key scientific tool that can deliver breakthroughs in agriculture by making precisely targeted modifications in a cell’s DNA. Currently, the regulatory requirements of genome editing are more lenient in comparison to genomic modification, which could ease access to market.
About Evogene Ltd.:
Evogene (NASDAQ, TASE: EVGN) is a leading biotechnology company for the improvement of crop productivity for the food, feed and fuel industries. The Company operates in three key target markets: improved seed traits (addressing yield increase, tolerance to environmental stresses and resistance to insects and diseases); innovative ag-chemicals (developing novel herbicide solutions for weed control); and ag-biologicals. Evogene has collaborations with world-leading seed and ag-chemical companies. For more information, please visit www.evogene.com or contact the Company at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Rahan Meristem Ltd.:
Rahan Meristem is an agro-biotechnology company with more than 40 years of experience in plant propagation and breeding. We produce millions of plants every year and export to more than 20 countries around the world.
We are a privately owned company headquartered in Rosh Hanikra, Israel, with additional production facilities in Colombia, the Philippines and Ecuador, and a distribution center in Costa Rica.
 According to The American Phytopathological Society