14 November 2021, Israel: Evogene Ltd., a leading computational biology company targeting to revolutionize life-science product development across several market segments, announced today that it has been informed by the Israeli Innovation Authority (IIA) of the IIA’s decision to fund a second 18-month period of the CRISPR-IL consortium established last year. The consortium’s mission is to develop and validate an end-to-end artificial intelligence system – “Go-Genome” – for genome-editing in multi-species for applications in pharma, agriculture, and aquaculture.
The CRISPR-IL consortium was initially approved by the Israeli Innovation Authority for a period of 18 months with total budget of approximately ILS 40 million. This current approval, based on the achievements of the consortium to date, is for a second 18-month period and an additional budget of approximately ILS 45 million (roughly $14.4 million), partially funded by a grant from the IIA. CRISPR-IL participants include leading Israeli companies, medical institutions, and academic institutions. Dr. Eyal Emanuel, Evogene’s VP New Directions, continues to serve as Chairman of the CRISPR-IL consortium.
The first period of research was devoted to successfully developing an initial version of “Go-Genome”, an end-to-end genome editing supporting platform, encompassing diverse editing datasets aimed at improving editing efficiency. “Go-Genome” then enabled the design of thousands of gRNAs, performed thousands of successful editing experiments in different cells and analyzed the outcoming data. Such experiments included editing of hundreds of genetic targets across a variety of organisms in the fields of pharma (human) and agriculture (plants & animals).
During the second period of research, the consortium aims to improve “Go-Genome’s” learning models with respect to editing efficiency with a strong focus on genome-editing specificity, indicating editing exclusively on the intended target. “Go-Genome”’s computational learning models are expected to be trained and validated by hundreds of genome-editing experiments, conducted by the consortium participants. These experiments aim to produce unique data from edited living cells, which is currently unavailable in such scale and diversity in the public domain.
Beyond activities within the consortium’s scope, participating companies may use “Go-Genome” for their own product development activities. In this respect, Evogene is currently conducting various proof-of-concept experiments in plant tissue examining the feasibility of increasing the production of ingredients such as natural colors and anti-aging agents for food or cosmetic purposes.
Dr. Eyal Emmanuel, Chairman of the CRISPR-IL consortium and VP New Directions of Evogene, commented, “We are delighted to be continuing our important research in one of the forefront areas of innovation – the merge of computational power and genetics. The approval of the second period of the consortium by the IIA is a vote of confidence in the Israeli research community and is a recognition of the importance of CRISPR-IL’s work. These achievements could lay the foundation for exciting new commercial directions for Evogene.”
Dr. Nir Arbel, Chief Product Officer, stated, “Through Evogene’s work in the scope of the consortium, we are broadening our artificial intelligence capabilities and extending the range of our GeneRator AI solution, for the development of genomic-based products. Evogene’s GeneRator AI solution already includes computational capabilities for identifying “where”, “which” and “how” edits should be made to achieve a specific trait, and the capabilities being developed within the framework of the consortium are anticipated to further improve and extend these capabilities.”