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Divergence Gets $500K Grant for RNAi Nematode Research

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Divergence, a St. Louis-based biotech firm developing agricultural genomic products, has received a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to continue research into biotech traits for lesion nematode control in crops, such as corn.

The Phase II grant was awarded through NSF's Small Business Innovation Research program and is entitled, "Control of Lesion Nematodes by RNA Interference." The firm said that its Phase I research demonstrated that RNAi can substantially reduce lesion nematode reproduction, which results in larger, healthier root systems for plants.

It said that it would use the Phase II funding to expand its greenhouse testing of crops including corn.

"Our project's findings could lead to corn yield increases in the field as well as improvement in the ability of corn to tolerate drought conditions," James McCarter, Divergence's founder, president, and chief scientific officer, said in a statement. "These pests are unseen to the naked eye and cause far more damage than is generally recognized."

Divergence's scientific advisory board includes Craig Mello, the 2006 co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of RNAi.

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