Syngenta to license gene tech to Agrivida
Biotech start-up Agrivida has announced that it is now in a research alliance with Syngenta Ventures, the venture capital arm of agro-giant Syngenta. C&EN visited Agrivida in the summer to learn a bit about the company's technology. Agrivida is working to develop versions of energy crops like corn, switchgrass, miscanthus, and sorghum that have enzymes enabling the breakdown of cellulose in the plant, which would decrease ethanol production costs and the need for expensive enzymes.
To keep the plants from turning to mush before harvest, Agrivida is also developing a protein switch called an intein, that would, in the words of company founder Jeremy Johnson, "has the ability to cleave itself out and reconnect the rest of the sequence" of genes that code for the enzyme.
The deal with Syngenta means that Agrivida will have access to crop technology and intellectual property in return for Agrivida equity. Back in the summer, cleantech analysts pointed out that a deal with a major agricultural firm - with access to a huge marketplace of farmers - would be the ideal next step for the firm.
Over the weekend, Agrivida's scientists presented new experimental data at BIO's Pacific Rim Summit on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy in Honolulu. The company reported that their engineered crops can reduce production costs by over 30 percent, and would allow ethanol producers to decrease enzyme loadings by over 75 percent, compared to today's processes.
Agrivida's modified switchgrass. Credit: Agrivida