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Syngenta Makes $518M Offer to Buy Devgen, Boost Access to RNAi Tech for Ag-Bio

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As the interest of ag-bio firms in RNAi and microRNA technologies heats up, crop sciences firm Syngenta has made an all-cash bid to acquire Devgen and its portfolio of RNAi-based crop-enhancement and -protection technologies.

According to Syngenta, it aims to buy all Devgen shares and warrants at a price of €16 ($20.70) per share, which represents a 70 premium on Devgen's stock on NYSE Euronext Brussels prior to the disclosure of the offer. The total value of the deal is estimated at around €400 million ($518 million).

Following news of the potential deal, shares of Devgen were trading around €15.85.

Devgen said in a statement that its board supports the offer and will provide a formal response “in due course.”

Few details about the takeover bid have been made public, but a Syngenta spokesperson confirmed that Devgen's expertise with RNAi is a key component to the transaction.

“Syngenta is engaged in a variety of research projects that aim to modulate gene expression in both crop plants and crop pests,” the spokesperson said in an email. “We believe that Devgen’s know-how and technology in RNAi can help us in these areas — not only to accelerate our research programs, but to add ways of deployment of RNAi technology — by allowing direct application, in addition to genetic modification.”

Although much of Devgen's value is derived from its hybrid rice business, the company has an active crop protection unit focused on applying RNAi for pest control. In fact, the company unveiled a partnership with Syngenta earlier this year to develop such products (GSN 5/24/2012).

But by acquiring Devgen outright, Syngenta will be able to lock up its access to the gene-silencing technology, which has been increasingly embraced by agricultural biotechnology companies recently.

As reported by Gene Silencing News, Marina Biotech recently licensed its RNAi technologies to Monsanto, which already has a number of RNAi programs moving through its pipeline including one centered around a pest-resistant corn strain and another related to trans fat-free soybeans.

Monsanto also last year acquired privately held Beeologies, which is using RNAi to treat a variety of deadly bee disorders.

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