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Monsanto, Sapphire Set Out to ID Genes for Algal Growth

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Monsanto and Sapphire Energy today announced a deal for the discovery of genes that may be used for agricultural applications, particularly for yield and stress.

The multi-year deal will provide Monsanto with access to Sapphire's algal expertise and research tools to screen traits in algae, which may have agricultural use. The San Diego-based energy firm works in the synthetic biology space, producing drop-in replacement fuels, such as gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel from algae.

In return, the collaboration will further Sapphire's work in pushing the boundaries of algal science and accelerate commercialization of the company's technology to make algae a renewable energy crop, Monsanto said.

The two companies will focus on identifying genes that positively affect growth in algae, which may also increase yields.

In addition to collaborating on algae-based research projects, Monsanto will make an equity investment of an undisclosed amount in Sapphire. Other terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"Sapphire's expertise in algal research offers a novel platform that will allow us to screen and identify promising genes faster," said Robb Fraley, Monsanto's chief technology officer, in a statement. "Together with Sapphire, we can identify genes affecting such traits in algae that might also be applied to corn, cotton, soybeans, and other crops."

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