Monsanto Invests in Pairwise after Cofounding CRISPR Startup

Pairwise Plants has raised a $25 million Series A round co-led by Monsanto Growth Ventures and healthcare investment firm Deerfield Management.

Pairwise is a gene-editing company that has licensed programmable base editing technology from Harvard University, which will leverage various CRISPR-based technologies to create new crop varieties with favorable traits. The startup was founded in-house by Monsanto Growth Ventures and some of the foremost scientists behind the fundamentals of gene-editing. 

Pairwise will work exclusively with Monsanto in corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton and canola crops. Under the companies’ collaboration and licensing agreement, Monsanto will contribute $100 million to access and develop Pairwise IP in row crop applications, including an option to commercialize products resulting from the research collaboration.

Kiersten Stead of Monsanto Growth Ventures told AgFunderNews that Pairwise will have the capability to bring gene-editing to crops beyond the row crops that most gene-editing research has focused on to date.

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CRISPR Startup Inscripta Raises $55.5m Series C to Democratize Gene-Editing

Inscripta (formerly Muse Bio) has raised a $55.5 million Series C round led by healthcare investor Mérieux Développement and Washington, DC-based private equity firm Paladin Capital Group. Existing investors VenrockForesiteMLS Capital, and NanoDimension also participated.

Inscripta is building a business based on selling gene-editing tools, such as instruments, reagents, and software, and in order to create a market for these tools, the company is giving away CRISPR enzymes for free. CEO Kevin Ness likened his company to selling pickaxes during the gold rush.

“To really achieve, a significant amount of research needs to be done and not all that research is being done because people don’t have all the tools that they need,” said Ness.

CRISPR is the technology that enables gene-editing (GE), a way of selectively breeding crops by removing certain genetic material, but without introducing foreign genetic as is the case in genetic modification or GMO technology. Its application in agriculture is highly anticipated and two companies are set to debut GE products in the near future. 

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Gene Editing Gets Public Market Approval as Calyxt Raises $64m IPO

Gene editing has caused a lot of excitement in agriculture technology circles for its potential to produce crops, and even animals, with improved characteristics. The technique, which enables undesirable traits — such as intolerance to heat — to be edited out of a genome,  or preferred traits — such as high nutritional content — to be enhanced, has also been lauded as a “non-GMO” method of advancing breeding; creating crops with characteristics that many argue would naturally appear over generations through evolution without the introduction of any foreign DNA.

With consumer acceptance of GMO food at all time lows, this technology could be a game changer for many sectors and last week the public markets got their first chance to access it in an agricultural context.

Calyxt, a Minnesota-based subsidiary of French biopharmaceutical company Cellectis, successfully spun out from its parent and raised $64.4 million in an IPO on the Nasdaq stock exchange. While pricing at the bottom of its $8-$10 a share range — revised down from an earlier $15-$18 range — the stock was a hit on its first day gaining 30% and reaching a high of $11.25. The offering was also oversubscribed, with the underwriters selling their optional over-allotment. It is currently trading around $10.70 with the ticker CLXT.

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