Research & Innovation Services

University License Deal to Increase Grain Production in Europe

The University of Bath has concluded a license agreement with Biogemma, an R&D subsidiary of the Limagrain Group.

With forecasts for the world’s population estimating an extra 2 billion people by 2050, there is increasing demand from the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to double global grain production, despite threats from climate change, and other negative factors.

Meeting this extremely challenging grain production target will require the introduction of new technologies, including novel genes that increase seed yield of the major cereal crops. The University of Bath has developed a method to increase the size of seeds by altering the expression of a gene (MEGAINTEGUMENTA, also known as ARF2) discovered in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana that regulates development of the seed coat. This modified gene can increase cereal crop yield, since this depends on both seed number and seed size.

Professor Rod Scott from the Department of Biology and Biochemistry led the research at Bath, which was originally funded by Sulis Innovations, a University-based venture fund. He says: “I’m delighted that Biogemma have seen promise in our technology and are willing to invest in its further development to boost cereal yields. It is particularly gratifying that fundamental research performed in a model laboratory plant species could lead to genes like ARF2 that have potential for impact in agricultural crops”.

Dr Jenni Solbe, who led the negotiations from the Research Development and Support Office (RDSO) at the University, says: “The Research Commercialisation team within RDSO’s Enterprise and Knowledge Exploitation works to commercialise inventions arising from the University’s research base. We are delighted to licence Professor Scott’s ARF2 technology to Biogemma. The next step will be the testing of the technology in field trials by Biogemma and we hope that these will be successful and that the ARF2 technology will eventually become part of a Limagrain product.”

Jeroen Wilmer, Biogemma licensing manager, said: “Biogemma evaluated the technology in the lead up to signing the agreement with Bath, and we are confident in our capability to construct a GM yield improvement trait based on the Bath technology.”

The license deal allows Biogemma exclusive rights for use in a range of crops including maize, wheat, soybean, rice, and oil seed rape with a right to sublicense. Biogemma will work through its shareholders to breed and market worldwide to seed merchants, farmers, and growers. Bath in return will benefit from royalty rights on the commercial seed produced.

Biogemma is a leading biotech company in Europe involved in Applied Genomics and GM activities in Field crops. Result of the merger of the biotech activity of three major seed companies, Vilmorin & Cie (Limagrain Group), Euralis and RAGT, with the help of two financial institutions Sofiproteol and Unigrains and the support of the technical agency Arvalis, the company is developing R&D programs with its partners, in field crops (Corn, Wheat, Sunflower and Oilseed rape), focused on yield improvement, biotic and abiotic stress resistance and specialty grain compounds.

The University is still seeking licensees for this opportunity for other crop types such as pulses. If you would like further information on this opportunity, research commercialisation or other commercial prospects please contact:

Dr Miles Davis (Head of Enterprise and Knowledge Exploitation)
Email: M.Davis@Bath.ac.uk  
Tel: +44 (0)1225 38 4795 

Further information on Limagrain Group.