BetterSeeds and Merck enters partnership to validate use of CRISPR genome-editing tools

MilliporeSigma (Merck's life science division) has signed an agreement to demonstrate the utility of its CRISPR genome-editing tools in agricultural uses and to license its foundational CRISPR intellectual property to BetterSeeds, an AgTech company based in Israel that uses genome editing technology including CRISPR to develop new breeds of plants.

MilliporeSigma’s experience in the genome-editing field has led to one of the most comprehensive portfolios of CRISPR and other advanced genomics products and technologies. The company uses its expertise to offer products and services for a range of applications, including gene knockout, targeted integration and mutagenesis, and genetic screening libraries to support basic scientific research and the development of new therapeutics and diagnostics. MilliporeSigma’s scientists continue to develop powerful, unique technologies and expand the scope of these applications to accelerate scientific research.

CEO of BetterSeeds, Ido Margalit.

MilliporeSigma’s leadership in the genome-editing field continues with this collaboration with BetterSeeds to demonstrate the potential for using its CRISPR genome-editing tools in plants, including with the following new tools in development: (1) CRISPR-CHROM, a Cas9 fusion with chromatin-modifying peptides which improves both Homology Directed Repair (HDR) efficiency and insertion-deletion (INDEL) mutation efficiency at ‘hard to target’ sites, (2) high fidelity Cas9 (HiFi Cas9) to minimize off-target edits, (3) high-quality HPLC purified synthetic guide RNAs (gRNAs) to minimize toxicity effects, and (4) Cas9-GFP fusions for optimizing transient gene editing strategies by ribonucleoprotein (RNP) delivery.

Opening the way for more applications
MilliporeSigma’s license of its foundational CRISPR intellectual property to BetterSeeds is an important step forward in advancing the research, development, and commercialization of gene-edited plants utilizing our CRISPR technology including CRISPR-based integration. “CRISPR-based integration is a fundamental tool for many genome-editing applications but has historically been exceptionally difficult to do in plants. With this collaboration we aim to test the boundaries of the currently available technology in this critical sector helping to bring food security to millions whilst lowering the environmental impact of the farming process,” said Angela Myers, Head of Gene Editing and Novel Modalities, MilliporeSigma. MilliporeSigma holds ~50 CRISPR-related patents worldwide in methods and composition, including the foundational technology of  CRISPR-Cas9 mediated integration in eukaryotic cells. 

BetterSeeds plans to use MilliporeSigma’s foundational CRISPR patent estate to edit cash crops such as cowpea and cannabis in order to develop and incorporate, namely by the use of gene-editing tools, game-changing traits, which are currently not available in many crops due to the limitations of conventional breeding. BetterSeeds aims to address 21st-century farming challenges including enabling farmers and policy decision-makers to meet output goals whilst using significantly less arable land.  BetterSeeds stated goal is to adapt today’s crops for the challenges of tomorrow! “We are excited that MilliporeSigma has chosen BetterSeeds to validate their CRISPR tools in plants. Being the first AgTech company to access MillioporeSigma’s technology for plant applications will strengthen BetterSeeds’ capabilities to efficiently deliver high-quality crops with better traits” said Ido Margalit, CEO of BetterSeeds.

“MilliporeSigma has been at the forefront of gene-editing innovation for 17 years and continues to work, both ethically and responsibly, by democratizing our patented CRISPR technology,” said Angela Myers. MilliporeSigma recognizes that genome editing has resulted in major advancements in biological research and medicine. At the same time, the growing potential of genome-editing technologies has led to scientific, legal and societal concerns. MilliporeSigma supports research with genome editing under careful consideration of ethical and legal standards. MilliporeSigma’s parent company, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, has established an independent, external Bioethics Advisory Panel to provide guidance for research in which its businesses are involved, including research on or using genome editing and has developed, defined and transparently published a clear operational Genome-Editing Technology Principle taking into account scientific and societal issues to inform promising therapeutic approaches for use in research applications.

MilliporeSigma is actively licensing its CRISPR technology for agricultural, therapeutic and other uses and is seeking collaboration partners for research and product development.

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