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Tropic Biosciences, BASF Partner to Use Gene Editing Tech for Crop Development

NEW YORK – UK-based biotechnology company Tropic Biosciences and German chemicals firm BASF said on Thursday that they have signed a research agreement to use Tropic Bio's GEiGS (Gene Editing induced Gene Silencing) technology to develop agricultural traits in BASF's strategic crop varieties that could address growers' challenges for sustainability.

Under the terms of the agreement, Tropic Bio will generate crop candidates using the GEiGS platform that could possibly enter the BASF discovery pipeline for development of disease and pest control traits, the partners said. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

GEiGS utilizes established genome editing tools to make precise and specific changes to a few nucleotides within the noncoding genome of a host organism. These changes redirect RNA interference activity of noncoding genes towards target genes, including those belonging to pathogens and pests, Tropic Bio said. The approach does not depend on the introduction of genes from other organisms into the host's genome.

Tropic Bio said it developed GEiGS to support its own product development, such as a produce line of bananas that are resistant to a fungus called Panama disease. "Our aim is to help farmers increase productivity and improve sustainable environmental practices for tropical crops by applying cutting-edge gene editing technologies," Tropic Bio CEO Gilad Gershon said in a statement. "GEiGS is attractive for us as it radically expands our ability to develop and commercialize non-transgenic disease resistance traits."

Tropic Bio Chief Commercial Officer Jack Peart also noted that the company is happy to make GEiGS available for use by other companies and is delighted to see it being applied, through the BASF collaboration, not only in tropical crops but also in row crops.