BASF Plant Science and VIB boost cooperation
* New cooperation project involves expertise of 60 research-ers of VIB and Ghent University
* Main focus on prediction of gene functions through novel bioinfor-matics tools
* Target is to find yield enhancing genes for corn and rice
* Support of Flemish governmental organization IWT
Limburgerhof, Germany and Ghent, Belgium – BASF Plant Science and VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology) today signed a major cooperation agreement. The focus is on plant genetic mechanisms that increase yield and improve tolerance to envi-ronmental stress such as drought and cold. This is the third research project, in which BASF Plant Science and the VIB-UGent Department of Plant Sys-tems Biology join forces: earlier this year, both had signed a license agree-ment on yield increasing genes and extended an existing cooperation project, which aims to optimize the growth process of corn roots to enhance nutrient and water absorption.
The project signed today is co-funded by IWT, the Institute for the Promotion of Innovation by Science and Technology in Flanders. “We appreciate the support of IWT, which sees that plant biotechnology can help secure and im-prove yield,” said Hans Kast, President and CEO of BASF Plant Sci-ence. “Drought, for instance, is increasingly becoming a problem for farmers, also in Europe. It is therefore high time that the EU opens its market for ge-netically modified plants.”
The new cooperation will benefit from the expertise of 60 VIB-researchers connected to Ghent University working on the functional and computational analysis of genetic networks responsible for yield increase and stress toler-ance in plants. Researchers at BASF Plant Science’s subsidiary Crop-Design then use a high-throughput screening technology to validate the effect of gene modification on plant growth and yield. As the combination of these two approaches allows for both a broad and deep analysis, genes that have passed the whole process are likely to improve crop yield in the field, not only in corn and rice but also in other crops. The duration of the coopera-tion project has been set for three years.
“Plant yield and stress tolerance are complex. However, the combined exper-tise of CropDesign and VIB will generate a holistic view on the mechanisms that orchestrate these processes to ensure that competitive products will reach the market,” said Dirk Inzé, Scientific Director of the VIB-UGent Department of Plant Systems Biology.
“After our spin-off from VIB, we have maintained strong ties to this center of excellence in plant biotechnology,” said Johan Cardoen, Managing Director of CropDesign. “Our cooperation brings together the complementary skills of both partners and will increase the output of BASF Plant Science’s yield trait discovery pipeline. This is particularly important, as yield is the main value driver in agriculture.”
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The Institute for the promotion of Innovation by Science and Technology in Flanders (IWT) was established in 1991 by the Flemish government as a regional public institution to provide R&D and innovation support in Flanders. For this purpose, IWT has several financial tools and an annual budget of 288 million EUR (in 2007) available to support projects. In addition to direct funding, a variety of services is provided to the local industry in the field of technology transfer, partner search, information about international subsidy options, etc. IWT has also an important co-ordination mission, aiming at a strong co-operation between all organizations in Flanders, offering technological innovation services to companies.
Over the years IWT has expanded into the knowledge center for R&D and innovation in Flanders. More info on www.iwt.be
CropDesign is an agricultural biotech company delivering agronomic traits for the global commercial seed markets. The company specializes in traits for yield-enhancement, drought tolerance and improved nutrient use efficiency of crops such as corn and rice. CropDesign’s trait portfolio consists of a large and growing set of proprietary leads for enhanced grain yield, drought tolerance or nutrient use efficiency. A number of these leads have been vali-dated in field trials, have entered into rice product development and are also further tested in corn and other large acreage crops. Please also visit www.cropdesign.com.
VIB, the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology, is a non-profit research institute in the life sci-ences. Some 1,100 scientists and technicians conduct strategic basic research on the mo-lecular mechanisms that control the functioning of the human body, plants, and micro-organisms. Through a close partnership with four Flemish universities − Ghent University, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, the University of Antwerp, and the Vrije Universiteit Brus-sel − and a solid investment program, VIB unites the forces of 65 research groups in a single institute. Their research aims at fundamentally extending the frontiers of our knowledge. Through its technology transfer activities, VIB strives to convert the research results into products for the benefit of consumers and patients. VIB also develops and distributes a broad range of scientifically substantiated information about all aspects of biotechnology. More info at: www.vib.be and
About BASF Plant Science
BASF – the Chemical Company – consolidated its plant biotechnology activities in BASF Plant Science in 1998. Today, about 700 employees are working to optimize crops for more efficient agriculture, renewable raw materials and healthier nutrition. Projects include yield increase in staple crops, higher content of Omega-3s in oil crops for preventing cardiovascu-lar diseases, and potatoes with optimized starch composition for industrial use.
To find out more about BASF Plant Science, please visit www.basf.com/plantscience.
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