Global Agriculture

Evogene Ag-Seed Division Awarded Prestigious €1.2M Horizon Grant to Develop Oil-Seed Crops with High CO2 Assimilation & Drought Tolerance

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10 May 2023, Israel: The Ag-Seed Division of Evogene Ltd. (Nasdaq: EVGN, TASE: EVGN)(“Evogene”), a leading computational biology company targeting to revolutionize life-science product discovery and development across multiple market segments has announced that it has been granted a prestigious EU Horizon grant of €1.2 million, to support the creation of oil-seed crops that have high carbon-dioxide assimilation and enhanced drought tolerance. The project, Crop4Clima, has an overall budget of €2.5 million and is expected to be executed over 32 months. This grant follows the successful completion of the FutureAgriculture Consortium’s proof-of-concept in 2021, which demonstrated the potential for increased agricultural productivity and environmental sustainability.

The program’s goal is to develop crops, focusing first on canola and rapeseed seeds, with the ability to assimilate 60% more carbon dioxide from the air while requiring 20% less water intake when compared to crops grown under standard agricultural practices in order to support sustainability goals. It supports efforts to reduce global warming by using plants with a higher uptake of carbon dioxide accumulation from the atmosphere. In addition, it enables the saving of scarce water resources and improved plant tolerance against drought conditions. Furthermore, it is expected that biomass yield per hectare will improve while the plant maintains a high oil content, as demanded by canola-derived products and the biofuel industry. The potential commercial value of such products for the food, animal feed, and sustainable energy industries is significant.

This development follows a successful proof-of-concept, completed in 2021 as part of the FutureAgriculture Consortium funded by the EU Horizon Program. Results showed increased carbon-dioxide assimilation by plants, combined with improved drought tolerance and plant productivity. These positive results indicated the commercial potential of increased agricultural productivity while supporting sustainability goals. They led the Horizon 2020 reviewers to recommend continuing funding the project’s development as a significant measure to reduce climate change.

Crop4Clima is part of Horizon Europe’s highly competitive and prestigious EIC Transition program, whose goal is to establish businesses addressing climate challenges and develop resilient and environmentally sustainable crops which can better address climate change. The €1.2 million grant awarded to Evogene will cover Evogene’s estimated costs to participate in this program. Other partners in this project include the Max Planck Society, Germany’s leading basic research institution, IN Society, an Italian not-for-profit SME that analyzes the impact of emerging technologies on society, and Agrobioinstitute, Agricultural Academy, Sofia, Bulgaria. The program leverages Evogene’s Ag-seeds Division’s and its partners’ innovative synthetic biology technologies while integrating multidisciplinary skills in computational biology, chemistry, microbiology, and plant physiology.

The Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology conducts research on the molecular functions of environmental microorganisms and their potential use for synthetic biology. Professor Dr. Tobias Erb, Director of the Department of Biochemistry and Synthetic Metabolism at Max Planck, commented, “Our research on basic design principles of microbial metabolism enabled us to engineer improved carbon-dioxide uptake mechanisms. The joint project with Evogene is an important part of our efforts to create a sustainable future with synthetic biology. By engineering novel metabolic pathways, we aim to enable plants to make better use of cellular resources, thus saving fertilizer and water and reducing the release of carbon dioxide in agriculture.”

According to Laura Martinelli, CEO of IN Society, “Crop4Clima is a perfect example of science translated into socially relevant innovation, as it will enable agriculture to cope with the changing demands of climate change. Since its inception, we have supported this promising innovation as part of the FutureAgriculture project. We are excited to play a key role in this new phase and contribute to its success by performing the environmental and economic assessment and facilitating stakeholder adoption of the technology.”

Eyal Ronen, EVP of Business Development of Evogene, commented: “We are proud to lead the development of these oil-seed crops with unique characteristics, supporting sustainability goals. The proof of concept is further validated by our consortium winning the prestigious European Horizon grant, whose goal is sustainable agriculture. We are also excited to work in this consortium with the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, a global scientific leader in environmental and synthetic biology. This win reflects our expertise in synthetic and computational biology, and our ability to develop innovative new products.”

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