Intrexon and FuturaGene collaborate for plant species

Synthetic biology company Intrexon and FuturaGene, a wholly owned subsidiary of Suzano Papel e Celulose – the second largest producer of eucalyptus pulp in the world – have entered into an exclusive collaboration to increase biomass in eucalyptus and poplar trees.

The collaboration will utilise Intrexon's platform to design complex, innovative gene constructs and FuturaGene's expertise in plant yield enhancement to cultivate improved qualities in eucalyptus, the second most widely used species in the paper and pulp industry, as well as in poplar trees.

'With Intrexon, we share a common vision to drive sustainable agriculture through continuous improvement and protection of crop yield to maximise output while minimising inputs such as land, water, and fertiliser,' says Stanley Hirsch, group CEO of FuturaGene. 'Intrexon's technology suite can help accelerate future product development in the biological engineering of a variety of species in the forestry space, and we look forward to working with them.'

Classic selective breeding for particular genetic traits to enhance yield has reached a point of diminishing returns in many domesticated species. The engineering of biological solutions across multiple plantation forest species has demonstrated the potential to facilitate faster growth, augment biomass, advance fibre properties, increase output potential of planted acreage, reduce the cost of wood production, and improve industrial processability of crops.

FuturaGene's efforts have focused on eucalyptus and poplar given their importance in established industries such as paper and pulp and their emerging potential in the biofuel and biopower markets. In April 2015, the company became the first in the world to receive commercial approval of a yield enhanced genetically modified (GM) eucalyptus variety from the Brazilian National Technical Biosafety Commission (CTNBio). Furthermore, it is the first foreign company to initiate GM plant trials in China where it is developing enhanced poplar trees.

Under the terms of the agreement, Intrexon will receive royalties of gross profits, which are subject to increase if it elects to participate in funding development, for each product produced through the collaboration.

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