Dow and its subsidiary DowAgroscience have interests in biotechnology R&D focused towards:

  • Animal health and foods, including animal vaccines produced in plant cells
  • Plants with altered oil characteristics for food production
  • Modifying plants with traits such as improved disease resistance

The bulk sequence documents analysed above claim a mixture of sequences from a number  of different plant species, both monocots and dicots. For Dow, sequences from Arabidopsis appear to be less important than claims on sequences from organisms that have more direct economic value such as maize, cotton, sorghum, alfalfa and soybeans, and some species that are both model systems and crops, such as tobacco or rice.  Additionally the Dow applications studied also contain a large number of claims to fungal sequences.  For example, Trichoderma harzianum (sequences claimed in the patent document discussed above) is a fungus that is used as a biocontrol measure to protect crop plants against fungal pathogens such as Fusarium sp. (a fungal pathogen of cotton, amongst others).

Dow and DowAgroscience’s diverse interests are reflected in their bulk sequence applications.  So although these applications contain some Arabidopsis sequences, Arabidopsis is less a focus of patenting activity for Dow than Nicotiana benthamiana, another popular model plant system. The interest in N. benthamiana may be due to a number of reasons, including:

  • “Saturation” applications for Arabidopsis (applications known to have been filed by such companies as Mendel and Paradigm may have influenced Dow’s patenting strategy)
  • N. benthamiana is in family Solanaceae, and more closely related to important crops such as potato, tomato, and capsicum than Arabidopsis
  • Gene silencing in N. benthamiana can be far more easily used to determine gene function (and utility) than in Arabidopsis