GENET archive


BUSINESS / PATENTS: Monsanto expands its business

                                 PART I
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TITLE:  Monsanto, local start-up to combine crop efforts
SOURCE: Chicago Tribune, USA
DATE:   23.05.2007

Monsanto, local start-up to combine crop efforts
Chromatin's technology speeds insertion of genes

A Chicago biotech start-up scored its first major deal Tuesday when
Monsanto Co. agreed to a research partnership to genetically engineer
crops like corn or soybeans more quickly than by using standard technology.

Chromatin's gene-stacking technology creates artificial chromosomes that
enable scientists to insert up to a dozen genes into plants at one time.
The technology could be used to make plants more attractive sources for
ethanol, or tailor strains of corn and other food crops grown in
developing countries to adapt to harsh local conditions.

As the biggest producer of genetically engineered seed, St. Louis-based
Monsanto is increasingly focused on producing "stacked" crops that have
multiple patented genes.

Current genetic-modification techniques allow scientists to only insert
one or two genes at a time in a plant, making it difficult to engineer
multiple traits into a plant quickly.

Chromatin's technology was developed by Daphne Preuss, a University of
Chicago biology professor, in research with weeds. Preuss, who is on
leave from the U. of C., is president and chief scientific officer at

For several years, the firm has worked to demonstrate that its
technology could be transferred to commercial crops such as corn.

"We've done a lot of work in greenhouses with corn," Preuss said. "Now
Monsanto can apply this technology to its favorite plant varieties,
doing research in greenhouses and in the field under real-world conditions."

Chromatin's non-exclusive, 3-year partnership with Monsanto covers
research into manipulating genes in corn, cotton, soybeans and canola.
Financial terms were not disclosed.

Chromatin retains the right to broadly license its technology to other
companies, and both companies agreed the 3-year deal could be extended.

"Monsanto's crop and trait development capabilities make them an ideal
partner for advancing Chromatin's gene-stacking technology," Preuss said.

Monsanto, for example, could introduce traits such as drought resistance
into plants already engineered to tolerate its Roundup herbicide.

"By coupling Chromatin's unique technology with our in-house resources,
we believe we'll be able to deliver high-value trait stacks faster and
more efficiently," said Monsanto's chief technology officer, Robert Fraley.

One advantage Monsanto gets from the deal is an early start in using
Chromatin's technology. Chromatin's executives hope this may spur
interest among other large seed companies in licensing the technology.

"This is a significant milestone for a technology that has come a long
way since its development at the university," said Alan Thomas, director
of intellectual property at the University of Chicago. "We hope this is
the first of many such announcements."

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                                 PART II
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  Monsanto partners with Chromatin Inc.
AUTHOR: The Associated Press, by Chistopher Leonard
DATE:   22.05.2007

Monsanto partners with Chromatin Inc.

Monsanto Co. announced a research partnership Tuesday with biotech
company Chromatin Inc. that aims to increase the number of modified
genes Monsanto can insert into commodity crops like corn and soybeans.

As the biggest producer of genetically engineered seed, St. Louis-based
Monsanto is increasingly focused on producing so-called "stacked" crops
that have multiple patented genes. Instead of just producing its own
pesticide, for example, a stacked corn seen could also tolerate Roundup
herbicide and be resistant to drought conditions.

"We want farmers to have access to all of our new traits in the best
available germplasm - along with the weed and insect protection they
enjoy today," Monsanto Chief Technology Officer Robert Fraley said in a
statement. "By coupling Chromatin's unique technology with our in-house
resources, we believe we'll be able to deliver these high-value trait
stacks faster and more efficiently in the future."

Monsanto's stock dropped 86 cents to $60.97 Tuesday after the deal was
announced. Chicago-based Chromatin is a privately-held company that
specializes in using mini-chromosomes to incorporate engineered traits
into a plant.

The companies said Monsanto will not have exclusive rights to
Chromatin's technology. The three-year research partnership can be
extended if necessary. Chromatin retained the right to license to other
companies during the partnership.

The companies did not disclose financial arrangements.

Monsanto announced a similar research partnership in March with BASF AG,
the world's largest chemical company based in Ludwigshafen, Germany.

Monsanto and BASF agreed to share proprietary research to help develop
new genetic traits more quickly. In that arrangement, Monsanto is
allowed to keep 60 percent of all profits from new products while BASF
would get 40 percent.

While Monsanto's partnership with Chromatin isn't designed to develop
new traits, it might help Monsanto weave any new traits into a plant's
existing DNA more quickly and more cheaply than it can now, according to
the companies.

In a separate announcement Tuesday, Monsanto said it formed a holding
company to invest in vegetable and fruit seed businesses with capital
and technology investments.

International Seed Group Inc. has acquired two European vegetable seed
companies: Western Seed, based in Holland; and Poloni Semences, based in

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                                 PART III
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  Monsanto buys fruit, vegetable seed firms
SOURCE: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, USA
AUTHOR: Rachel Melcer
DATE:   23.05.2007

Monsanto buys fruit, vegetable seed firms

Creve Coeur-based Monsanto Co. said Tuesday that it is expanding in the
fruit and vegetable seed market by establishing a holding company for
the purchase of regional firms.

Monsanto created International Seed Group Inc. as a business unit last
year, but announced its existence in conjunction with its first
significant deal: ISG is buying Western Seed, a Netherlands-based hybrid
vegetable-seed company, for an undisclosed amount, said Monsanto
spokeswoman Mica Veihman.

In January, ISG bought a niche French firm, Poloni Semences, in a much
smaller deal, she said. Poloni breeds Charentais melons, a type of
specialty cantaloupe known for its sweet flavor but short shelf life.

The creation of ISG follows a model Monsanto established in its flagship
biotech row-crop businesses: buying regional seed companies and infusing
them with funding and technology to boost sales, while allowing them to
maintain their local image, brands and relationships.

In these transactions, Monsanto also gains access to the seeds held by
these regional firms -- seeds that are ideally suited for growing in a
particular region it wants to penetrate. These seeds also might contain
valuable genetic traits that can be bred or transferred into other
Monsanto-owned seed lines.

Western Seed uses molecular breeding technology, similar to the approach
employed by Monsanto, to identify and rapidly breed improved vegetables.
It specializes in greenhouse and open-field tomatoes and specialty
peppers, with sales in western and southern Europe, the Middle East and
North Africa, Argentina, Mexico and the United States.

Monsanto is the world leader in developing genetically modified and
hybrid corn, soybean, cotton and canola seeds. It entered the fruit and
vegetable market in 2005 by buying Seminis Inc., a California-based
market leader, for $1.4 billion.

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                                 PART IV
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  University group sues Monsanto over patent
SOURCE: Reuters
AUTHOR: Carey Gillam
DATE:   22.05.2007

University group sues Monsanto over patent

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - A crop technology research group tied
to Iowa State University has accused agricultural biotechnology leader
Monsanto Co. of infringement on patented technology involving a popular
new type of soybean.

In a lawsuit filed in a federal court on Monday, the Iowa State
University Research Foundation accused Monsanto of commercializing a low-
linolenic acid content soybean, which is considered healthier and more
desirable than conventional soybeans. The foundation holds at least
eight patents covering methods for breeding and manufacturing such soybeans.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of
Iowa, claims Monsanto has been aware of the infringement and seeks an
injunction against the company. It also seeks trebling of damages due to
the "knowing willful and wanton nature of Monsanto's conduct."

The foundation, which manages intellectual property arising from
research at Iowa State University, claims in the suit that university
professors have been developing low-linolenic acid content soybeans
since 1968.

The suit states that Monsanto requested a meeting in February with the
research foundation after being notified of the infringement issue, but
specifically requested that no lawyers be present.

Though several settlement options were discussed, none was agreed upon,
according to the research foundation.

Monsanto issued a statement on Tuesday saying the lawsuit was without
merit because the company's scientists developed Monsanto's patented low-
linolenic acid soybean product using publicly available germplasm.

"We did not use any material from ISU and did not infringe upon any of
ISU's patents," the statement said.

Monsanto said it did try to resolve the issue and believed it had an
agreement with the foundation.

St. Louis-based Monsanto states in marketing materials that the soybeans
it has trademarked as "Vistive" contain less than 3 percent linolenic
acid, compared with 8 percent for traditional soybeans, resulting in a
more stable soybean oil and less need for hydrogenation.

The beans are aimed at food processors working to remove harmful
transfats from their products.

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                                 PART V
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  Researchers attach genes to minichromosomes in maize
SOURCE: University of Missouri-Columbia, USA
AUTHOR: Press Release
DATE:   21.05.2007

Researchers attach genes to minichromosomes in maize
Technique paves the way for pest/stress-resistant crop development,
production of medically important proteins and metabolites

COLUMBIA, Mo. - A team of scientists at the University of Missouri-
Columbia has discovered a way to create engineered minichromosomes in
maize and attach genes to those minichromosomes. This discovery opens
new possibilities for the development of crops that are multiply
resistant to viruses, insects, fungi, bacteria and herbicides, and for
the development of proteins and metabolites that can be used to treat
human illnesses.

In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences (PNAS), Weichang Yu, Fangpu Han, Zhi Gao, Juan M. Vega and
James A. Birchler built on a previous MU discovery about the creation of
minichromosomes to demonstrate that genes could be stacked on the

"This has been sought for a long time in the plant world, and it should
open many new avenues. If we can do this in plants, many advances could
be done in agriculture that would not otherwise be possible, from
improved crops to inexpensive pharmaceutical production to other
applications in biotechnology," said Birchler, professor of biological
sciences in the MU College of Arts and Science.

A minichromosome is an extremely small version of a chromosome, the
threadlike linear strand of DNA and associated proteins that carry genes
and functions in the transmission of hereditary information. Whereas a
chromosome is made of both centromeres and telomeres with much
intervening DNA, a minichromosome contains only centromeres and
telomeres, the end section of a chromosome, with little else. However,
minichromosomes have the ability to accept the addition of new genes in
subsequent experiments.

Birchler said there have been unsuccessful efforts to create artificial
chromosomes in plants but this is the first time engineered
minichromosomes have been made. Minichromosomes are able to function in
many of the same ways as chromosomes but allow for genes to be stacked
on them. Although other forms of genetic modification in plants are
currently utilized, the new minichromosomes are particularly useful
because they allow scientists to add numerous genes onto one
minichromosome and manipulate those genes easily because they are all in
one place, Birchler said. Genetic modification with traditional methods
is more complicated because scientists have little control over where
the genes are located in the chromosomes and cannot stack multiple genes
on a separate chromosome independent of the others.

By stacking genes on minichromosomes, scientists could create crops that
have multiple beneficial traits, such as resistance to drought, certain
viruses and insects, or other stresses. In addition, minichromosomes
could be used for the inexpensive production of multiple foreign
proteins and metabolites useful for medical purposes. Because of their
protein-rich composition, a part of the maize kernels (called an
endosperm) can be used to grow animal proteins and human antibodies that
treat diseases and disease symptoms. Minichromosomes could enable new
and better production of these foreign proteins and antibodies. In
addition, scientists also may be able to use them to develop plants
better suited for biofuel production.

"The technique used to create our engineered minichromosomes should be
transferable to other plant species," Birchler said.

He said he hopes that he and other scientists can use the technique to
create minichromosomes in other plant varieties and produce more
resistant plant strains, develop more medically useful proteins and
metabolites, and study how chromosomes function..

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