Mendel Media

“Four years ago, Chris Somerville, head of plant biology at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, slipped a gene for making plastic into Arabidopsis, a type of mustard plant. The gene turned the plant into a biological plastics factory.  Now, Monsanto Co. scientists are turning the concept into commercial reality….Just as exciting is a recent discovery by Calgene [now owned by Monsanto] scientists of the gene for the enzyme controlling the formation of cellulose in plants. After 30 years of fruitless biochemical search for the enzyme, ”this is our first break in understanding how to control biomass,” Somerville explains. Genetically boosting the enzyme could make it possible to create trees with much higher proportions of cellulose–the plant kingdom’s structural fiber–and less than the normal amounts of other cell wall components. Because these secondary components are what make the pulp- and papermaking process polluting and inefficient, scientists say, the engineered trees could help clean up a major industry. Beyond that, ”there is a mad scramble inplant biology to find the most useful genetic sequences,” says Somerville. ”The world hasn’t even seen the tip of the iceberg.’’ ‘“THE BIOTECH CENTURY”, Business Week, 1997 Chris Somerville is still at the Carnegie Institution, but is also the CEO of Mendel.

This diagram identifies a locus in the Arabidopsis genome with many patent applications covering genes in a pathway important for biofuels.   Mendel’s patenting (and that of other large companies such as DuPont) is not only over crops critical to worldwide food security, but also industrial uses that could add to the prosperity of developing countries if they were available to exploit.  Who gets to exploit them?

www.mendelbio.com/news/

Moderna, Monsanto link up in new venture

FOCUS – Moderna, Monsanto link up in new venture Reuters, Monday, November 24, 1997 at 20:09 By David Luhnow

MEXICO CITY, Nov 24 (Reuters) – Mexican conglomerate Empresas La Moderna (MEX:MDA.A) and U.S. agricultural giant Monsanto Co (NYSE:MTC) on Monday said they had bought a stake in newly formed agricultural genetic research company Mendel Biotechnology Inc. Each company paid $15 million to fund a five-year research and development project at Mendel, a start-up firm based in San Francisco and headed by some of the world’s leading plant genome experts, according to La Moderna officials in Mexico. In return, Moderna and Monsanto each get a 20 percent equity stake in Mendel and rights to develop and commercialize Mendel’s technical capabilities in the next generation of value-added agricultural products.

Both companies also have an option to buy an additional 10 percent stake in Mendel at an undisclosed future date, La Moderna company spokesman Dieter Holtz told Reuters. Each firm will have rights to Mendel’s research in the areas they are interested in and dominate, officials said. Monsanto will focus on Mendel’s advances in agronomics, or the capabilities in plant genetics and genomics for many crops, including corn, soybeans, fruits and vegetables. “This collaboration gives us the abilty to better understand the function of specific genes in plants, thereby allowing us to more quickly introduce crops with improved agricultural traits,” said Ganesh Kishore, Monsanto’s assistant chief scientist and chief biotechnologist. Kishore said the venture will greatly reduce research and development time for products that increase yield or otherwise enhance the growing, processing or nutritional characteristics of food.

La Moderna, the world’s largest vegetable seed maker, will have access to Mendel’s research in vegetable seeds as well as fresh and processed fruits and vegetables. “We will each focus on our core businesses: Monsanto in agronomics and (its herbicide) Roundup and Moderna in vegetable seeds and fruits and vegetables,” Holtz said in a telephone interview.

Earlier this year, Moderna sold its Asgrow agronomics division to Monsanto for about $240 million in order to focus more on the Mexican company’s strength in vegetable seeds. Mendel’s president and CEO is Michael Fromm, a former research director at Monsanto, and its chairman of the board is Christopher Sommerville, director of the Department of Plant Biology at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. “These are the best of the best in the field,” Holtz said. The top researchers at Mendel were responsible advances in areas such as disease resistance, the molecular genetics of nitrogen fixation in plants and the genetics of photosynthesis, he added.

“We didn’t want to have majority control of the company because we didn’t want to cramp their entrepreneurial spirit. We thought it was better to see what they came up with on their own,” Holtz said.

Copyright 1997, Reuters News Service

Monsanto, Empresas in Joint Venture with Mendel

MONSANTO, EMPRESAS IN JOINT VENTURE WITH MENDEL Reuters, Monday, November 24, 1997 at 16:22 ST. LOUIS, Mo., Nov 24 (Reuters) – Monsanto Co (NYSE:MTC) and Empresas La Moderna S.A. (MEX:MDA.A)
 said Monday they signed a broad technology collaboration agreement with Mendel Biotechnology Inc in the field of agricultural functional genomics.

The agreement gives Monsanto and Empresas exclusive access to Mendel’s technical capabilities in plant genetics and genomics for many crops, including corn, soybeans, fruits and vegetables.

As part of the agreement, Monsanto and Empresas will each acquire a substantial minority equity interest in Mendel and fund a research and development program over five years. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed. “This collaboration gives us the abilty to better understand the function of specific genes in plants, thereby allowing us to more quickly introduce crops with improved agricultural traits,” said Ganesh Kishore, Monsanto’s assistant chief scientist and chief biotechnologist.

Kishore said the venture will greatly reduce research and development time for products that increase yield, or otherwise enhance the growing, processing or nutritional characteristics of food.

Copyright 1997

Monsanto and ELM Enter Into Joint Technology Venture With Mendel Biotechnology

PR Newswire, Monday, November 24, 1997 at 19:46 ST. LOUIS, Nov. 24 /PRNewswire/ — Monsanto Company and Empresas La Moderna, S.A., (ELM) jointly have signed a broad technology collaboration agreement with Mendel Biotechnology Inc. in the field of agricultural functional genomics. The agreement gives Monsanto and ELM exclusive access to Mendel’s technical capabilities in plant genetics and genomics for many crops, including corn and soybeans, and fruits and vegetables. Leaders in the plant genetics and genomics fields to identify the function of genes founded Mendel Biotechnology and patent the corresponding DNA sequences that will produce the intellectual property basis for the next generation of agricultural products created through biotechnology.

As part of the agreement, Monsanto and ELM will each acquire a substantial minority equity interest in Mendel and fund a research and development program over a five-year period. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

“This collaboration gives us the ability to better understand the function of specific genes in plants, thereby allowing us to more quickly introduce crops with improved agricultural traits,” said Ganesh Kishore, assistant chief scientist and chief biotechnologist of Monsanto. Kishore said the venture will greatly reduce research and development time for products that increase yield, or otherwise enhance the growing, processing or nutritional characteristics of food.

“This is our first venture in genomics, and it builds nicely on our original technology agreement with Monsanto as a preferred provider of agronomic and quality traits we’re already using in our fruit and vegetable seed and produce businesses,” said Alfonso Romo Garza, chairman and chief executive officer of ELM. Through this partnership, ELM will have exclusive rights to Mendel’s technology for the development of proprietary, transgenic fruits and vegetable products that create value for growers, processors and consumers.

Mendel’s founding partners include several of the world’s most renowned plant geneticists. Their scientific contributions include the isolation of genes responsible for disease resistance, the molecular genetics of nitrogen fixation in plants, the genetics of photosynthesis and plant oil biosynthesis, the development of synthetic plastic in plants, and the gene transfer technology for corn.

“Applying cutting-edge genomics capabilities to the agricultural biotechnology strengths these two leaders have developed is a natural next step in discovering and commercializing improved-trait crops,” said Christopher R. Somerville, chairman of Mendel. Somerville also is the director of the Department of Plant Biology at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, and professor of the Department of Biological Sciences at Stanford University. The president and chief executive officer of Mendel Biotechnology is Michael Fromm, a former research director of enabling technologies and plant genomics for Monsanto.

As a life sciences company, Monsanto is committed to finding solutions to the growing global needs for food and health by sharing common forms of science and technology among agriculture, nutrition and health. ELM is a leading agribusiness biotechnology company focused on developing and marketing premium branded vegetable seeds, as well as fresh and processed fruits and vegetables. Mendel, a newly formed biotechnology company, specializes in applying functional genomics techniques to create valuable new traits in plants.

SOURCE: Monsanto Company 11/24/97

CONTACT: Lori J. Fisher, 314-694-8535
Lori.J.Fisher@monsanto.com