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Pairwise Plants Raises $25M in Series A Financing, Signs Gene Editing Deal With Monsanto

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Agricultural gene editing startup Pairwise Plants announced today that it has closed a $25 million Series A financing round, led by Deerfield Management and Monsanto Growth Ventures.

Separately, Pairwise announced that it has agreed to collaborate with Monsanto to advance agriculture research and development through the use of gene editing technology.

Pairwise, an agricultural company focused on using gene editing and the natural diversity of agricultural crops to address global food challenges, was cofounded by CRISPR experts Feng Zhang, David Liu, and Keith Joung. The firm said it has licensed programmable base editing technology from Harvard University and will be developing new gene-editing applications, which it intends to make available to food and agriculture companies specializing in row and specialty crops, fruits, and vegetables.

"My cofounders and I believe the technologies we have each been developing can have a profound impact in plant agriculture and will speed innovation that is badly needed to feed a growing population amid challenging conditions created by a changing climate," Joung said in a statement.

Incoming Pairwise CEO Tom Adams also noted that that company is aiming to "solve agriculture problems across a wide range of food systems that are also acknowledged social problems — including food waste, food security and nutrition, and to enable other companies worldwide to benefit from gene editing through technology licensing and collaboration."

Liu is a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Harvard and a faculty member at the Broad Institute, and pioneered the base editing technology Pairwise has licensed. Joung, a researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School, has helped invent and optimize several gene editing technologies. And Zhang is a core institute member of the Broad, where he developed the CRISPR-Cas9 system for gene editing in eukaryotic cells and continues to work with tools such as CRISPR-Cas12s and CRISPR-Cas13s.

Adams is the former vice president of biotechnology at Monsanto. Under the terms of its exclusive agreement with Monsanto, Pairwise will work in corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, and canola crops. Each company will contribute its expertise and complementary intellectual property with the goal of helping farmers produce better harvests, protect crops from evolving threats, and conserve resources.

Monsanto will contribute $100 million to access and develop Pairwise's IP in row crop applications, including an option to commercialize products resulting from the research collaboration.

"Part of Monsanto's commitment to delivering new technologies to farmers is recognizing other innovators we can work with to accelerate solutions," Monsanto Chief Technology Officer Robb Fraley said in a statement. "We are excited to be collaborating with the pioneers in gene editing at Pairwise to build on the robust body of research driven by our in-house team."