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Biotech Fungus Fighter

00:00AM Oct 05, 2008
Pam Smith, Farm Journal Crops & Issues Editor
You've enjoyed the benefits of herbicide and insect resistance in crops. However, disease resistance has been the last hold out in the race to genetically alter crops to resist threats.
DuPont and Hexima Limited have announced a development and commercialization agreement for certain biotech fungal disease resistance technology in corn, soybeans and other crops. In this collaboration, Hexima will lead the initial research and DuPont business Pioneer Hi-Bred will lead the late stage development and commercialization in corn and soybeans. Hexima will manage the technology in all other crops.
The initial target for the collaboration is broad spectrum disease resistance in corn. Fungal pathogens can cause extensive damage to corn fields globally, including yield loss, impaired ability to harvest and reduced grain quality. Stalk rots are the most common fungal diseases in corn fields worldwide, with multiple pathogens creating estimated yield losses of more than $1 billion in North and South America alone. 
"We are always looking for new ways to tackle specific challenges that our customers face," said Paul Schickler, Pioneer president and DuPont vice president and general manager. "This agreement with world-class experts in fungal disease resistance technology is a great example of the innovative approaches we're using to help solve these challenges." Schickler adds that the alliance will be an important compliment to the native trait fungal disease resistance research programs already underway at Pioneer.
"This agreement opens the way to market for one of Hexima's core technologies," said Joshua Hofheimer, Hexima chief executive officer. "It is an important next step in our commercialization strategy and value-creation for our shareholders and, furthermore, it is a powerful validation of our technology and our scientific team in the global agribusiness market."
As part of this agreement and via a placement agreement, Pioneer has subscribed to approximately 5 percent of the ordinary shares of Hexima, in exchange for the contribution of certain intellectual property. The collaboration will utilize Pioneer proprietary gene-shuffling technology and Hexima proprietary gene delivery technology, MGEV.
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This article appeared in a recent issue of Farm Journal's Crop Technology Update eNewsletter. To sign up for a free subscription, click here.