moa Technology Limited has secured $44m (£35m) in Series B financing. moa is putting miniaturized plants to work to discover the elusive novel modes of action that can control resistant weeds that plague farmers worldwide.
The financing round was co-led by new investor Lansdowne Partners, one of Britain's leading asset managers, together with existing investors, Oxford Science Enterprises, an investment company created to found, fund, and build businesses through its unique partnership with the University of Oxford; and Parkwalk Advisors, the largest EIS growth fund manager, focused on university spinouts. Existing investors BGF Investments, Bits x Bites Growth Fund, IP Group, and the University of Oxford also participated.
moa is driving the evolution of an industry by investigating nature's design for a new generation of safe and sustainable herbicides to solve an urgent problem that threatens the viability and security of food production the world over. Effective and safe weed control is crucial to producing sufficient food for a growing global population – without it, ~40% of crop yields can be lost. However, in a dynamic similar to that driving the antibiotic resistance crisis affecting healthcare, an innovation drought has forced the industry to rely on a small number of similar products, such that existing weed control chemistries are rapidly losing efficacy due to the evolution of weed resistance. Despite the urgency, no major new herbicide that works in a new way that can break resistance has been introduced to the market in the last thirty years.
Spun out of Oxford University in 2017, moa has developed a unique plant-led approach to revolutionize the discovery process for the new modes of action that can solve the resistance challenge. moa's three proprietary platforms, GALAXY, TARGET, and SELECT, uniquely utilize miniaturized living plants in combination with cutting-edge techniques in genetics, phenotypic analysis, and data analytics to rapidly screen hundreds of thousands of natural and synthetic chemistries to find those that work differently. In its first two years, the approach has already yielded an order of magnitude increase in the discovery rate of these novel interactions between chemistry and plant biology, which have the potential to control weeds in safe new ways.
Virginia Corless, CEO at moa, said: "We are pleased to have completed this funding round, which will enable us to accelerate the development of the most promising leads in our abundant pipeline and deliver the novel, safe and sustainable products necessary for us all – farmers, consumers, anyone with an interest in the food we grow and eat – to be able to count on a safe, reliable, and resilient agricultural industry for the future. We are excited to welcome the new investment from Lansdowne and are grateful for the continued support from our existing investors. "
Hadyn Parry, Chairman at moa, added: "Global agriculture needs a new Green Revolution if we are to feed the world sustainably. Being able to control weeds is critical to both yield and the cost of production in most crops, and new herbicide modes of action are essential. It's very exciting to see moa starting to play its part in this new revolution by advancing so far in such little time."
The investment will enable moa to advance its portfolio of leads through to the next stage of development and to further expand its prolific high-throughput in vivo screening platforms.
Martin Fiennes, Principal at Oxford Science Enterprises and Non-Executive Director at moa, said, "There has been tremendous progress developing the mode of action discovery platform since we helped moa spinout of Oxford's Plant Sciences Department. It is very exciting to see the output from the platforms now begin to show the new modes of action for effective and clean herbicides that farmers so desperately need."
Cassie Doherty at Parkwalk Advisors and Non-Executive Director at moa added, "Parkwalk is excited to offer its continued support to moa, helping advance the development of their novel technology that is so critical to farmers across the UK and globally. We have always felt that moa's relentless effort to strive for global food security will enable a better future."
Over the next few years, moa's pipeline is expected to produce several new candidates to advance into development and registration. The company is pursuing a range of commercial opportunities, including collaborations, joint ventures, and downstream partnerships, to bring its portfolio to market, with the aim of delivering to farmers as quickly as possible the tools they need to counter resistance and ensure the resilience of our food production system.
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