Monsanto, Chromatin agree to develop gene-stacking technology

By Philippa Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Monsanto, Dna, Biotechnology, Agriculture

Biotech behemoth Monsanto has joined forces with gene technology
expert Chromatin to develop ways of increasing the
number of modified genes that can be inserted into crops such as
soybeans and corn.

Scientists from the two companies will carry out a three-year joint research program to complete the development of gene-stacking technology, said St Louis-based Monsanto. The company added that the contract could be extended as necessary. Gene-stacking means that crops can be grown with multiple - rather than a singular - patented genes. This means that a single crop could, for example, be resistant to drought conditions in addition to producing its own pesticide, and potentially offer farmers a multitude of other advantages. "Farmers are increasingly turning to stacked trait technologies so that they can get more benefits out of a single seed,"​ said Robert Fraley, Monsanto's executive vice president and chief technology officer. "Chromatin's expertise in gene stacking technology will be an important resource as we look to deliver a broader variety of both input traits such as insect and weed control and beneficial consumer traits to improve nutrition of stacked trait options to our farmer customers."​ Daphne Preuss, Chromatin's chief scientific officer and president, said that as a leading agricultural biotechnology company, Monsanto's "crop and trait development capabilities make them an ideal partner for advancing Chromatin's gene stacking technology".​ The agreement gives Monsanto non-exclusive rights to use Chromatin's mini-chromosome stacking technology in corn, cotton, soybeans and canola. Chromatin will retain the right to license the technology so that companies other than Monsanto will also be able to use it. Rather than create new technology, Monsanto said it would use Chromatin's expertise in conjunction with its existing gene technologies to try and find more efficient methods of stacking traits. The companies would not disclose the financial terms of the agreement. Monsanto recently entered into a similar agreement with the German chemical giant BASF. BASF and Monsanto agreed in March to fund a pipeline of yield and stress tolerance traits for corn, soybeans, cotton and canola via a dedicated joint budget of potentially $1.5bn (€1.2bn). Monsanto will market any products developed from the collaboration, and will receive 60 percent of net profits, while BASF will receive 40 percent of the profits. The first product developed as a result of the agreement is expected to be commercialized in the first half of the next decade.

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