US (NC): RTP startup is using gene editing to improve crops, from corn to raspberries

The company, Pairwise, uses CRISPR technology to create plants that are, in the words of Pairwise’s head of trait development, Mike Mann, “more affordable, attainable and also convenient.”

Adams, the company’s CEO, thinks if they can improve produce in slight ways, it will help people “go to the produce aisle instead of the potato chip aisle.”

Those changes, he said, could be as simple as growing cherries without pits, which he described as a barrier for consumers and an impediment to young children.

“There are probably two billion people on Earth that are suffering from diet-related diseases that could benefit from healthier eating,” he said. “And that is (a problem) we would like to hit.”

Pairwise is one of many startup companies delving into the promise of gene editing — several companies in the Triangle are using the technology to treat diseases like cancer. Scott Johnson, the N.C. Biotechnology Center’s leader of agriculture development, reckons that North Carolina has “more scientists working on plant gene editing ... than any other place in the world.” 

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