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Evogene, Bayer Amend Wheat Agreement to Focus on Genomic Promoters

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – Evogene today said that its collaboration with Bayer CropScience for wheat improvement has been amended to focus on novel genomic promoters from a prior focus on the discovery of additional genes and SNPs.

"The amendment reflects a growing realization in the industry that the efficacy of a seed trait depends not only on the presence of the gene of interest, but on its optimization with other factors, including how the gene is expressed in the plant," Evogene President and CEO Ofer Haviv said in a statement. "As such, selecting the most appropriate promoters that control the expression of the gene of interest is crucial to the successful development of the desired trait in the plant."

He added that Evogene aims to identify tens of promoters that can improve the chances of success in Bayer's wheat pipeline.

Evogene and Bayer originally inked their pact in late 2010 to discover new genes that could improve wheat yield, nitrogen use efficiency, and abiotic stress tolerance. Using its Athlete computational discovery capabilities, Evogene has provided Bayer with a "large number of candidate genes" for potential development in Bayer's wheat pipeline and commercialization under terms previously agreed to by the firms.

In a document filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission today, Evogene said that as part of the collaboration, it has received about €9.6 million ($12.9 million) from Bayer in upfront fees and R&D payments through June 30, 2014. It added that it is entitled to receive an additional €2.5 million in such payments through the end of the year.

Pursuant to the amendment, Bayer will obtain an exclusive license to use genomic promoters discovered through the Evogene collaboration for all wheat-related purposes. Evogene said in its SEC document that it will be entitled to certain milestone payments and royalties and that it has the right to use such promoters in crops other than wheat.