AgBiome Granted Multi-year Award to Discover Biological Solutions to Diseases Affecting Subsistence Crops of Sub-Saharan Africa

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C., Dec. 6, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded AgBiome a new multi-year grant, entitled “Broad-Spectrum Biological Control of Fungal Diseases,” which will fund the evaluation and development of lead, proprietary biological fungicides in the fields of African smallholder farmers. The aim of the project is to identify and validate biological fungicides to control one or more of three major crop diseases of importance in Sub-Saharan Africa: sorghum anthracnose, black Sigatoka in banana, and aflatoxin contamination in maize.

AgBiome’s proprietary Genesis™ discovery platform has already successfully identified multiple field-usable microbes that target both foliar and root diseases of major row crops. The company is planning to commercialize its first product, a biological fungicide branded Howler™, pending regulatory approval by the Environmental Protection Agency. “We have successfully developed a biological that controls a broad-spectrum of soil-borne and foliar diseases and demonstrates control levels as good as the best synthetic chemistry options,” stated Dr. David Ingham, one of the research scientists leading the project. “Our experience from this first biopesticide combined with our very large collection of sequenced proprietary microbes uniquely positions us to identify lead strains with a high probability of controlling the diseases targeted in this proposal.” Added Dr. Mathias Twizeyimana, plant pathologist at AgBiome, “We are delighted to work with the Gates Foundation on this important project, which aims to direct AgBiome’s deep expertise in biological disease control toward helping farmers in the poorest countries.”

Fungal diseases result in massive losses for African farmers yearly, and current available solutions are limited in their effectiveness or add significant, unrealistic costs of implementation. Biological control of these diseases is a promising solution in many areas, generally affording growers no risk of exposure to synthetic pesticides and potentially offering season-long control through inoculation of host plants. Moreover, unlike synthetic fungicides, biologicals could be produced and distributed locally, thus bringing sustainable solutions to smallholder farmers to address these devastating diseases. Control of these diseases would directly impact subsistence farming households who experience high annual losses to these pests by increasing yield for both on-farm consumption and the sale of excess harvest, hence improving household income.

About AgBiome
AgBiome discovers and develops innovative biological and trait products for crop protection. Their proprietary Genesis™ discovery platform comprises the world’s largest, most diverse, fully sequenced collection of microbes, coupled to industry-best screens for insect, disease and nematode control. Better microbes. Better crops. Better world.™

AgBiome Awarded Grant from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Multi-year Grant Focused on Biological Solutions in Sweetpotatoes


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C., July 13, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — AgBiome, LLC, a leader in the development of microbial solutions for agriculture, has been awarded a multi-year grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to discover biological insect control for deployment to smallholder farmers in African nations. The project, entitled RSM Systems Biology for Sweetpotato: Engineering the African Root/Soil/Microbiome for Enhanced Crop Productivity, aims to discover beneficial microbes with the ability to control sweetpotato weevils.

Sweetpotatoes are a key dietary staple and supplemental food crop in sub-Saharan Africa, where they are primarily grown by poor smallholder farmers. Orange-fleshed varieties provide an important source of Vitamin A, a nutrient critical in preventing blindness and immune system weakness. The sweetpotato weevil is the crop’s most serious insect pest, causing losses of 60-100 percent if left untreated. To date, there are no viable control methods for the weevil in Africa. Biological control is an attractive solution, generally affording low- or no-exposure risk and potentially offering season-long control through inoculation of host plants.

The project will be led by AgBiome entomologists, Drs. Brooke Bissinger and Chad Keyser, and will occur in partnership with the laboratory of Dr. Jeff Davis at the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center.

“We are extremely excited to use AgBiome’s technology to benefit smallholder farmers in Africa,” says Bissinger. “Sweetpotato’s importance in sub-Saharan Africa was highlighted this year with the World Food Prize going to four researchers who developed and promoted Vitamin-A fortified sweetpotatoes. It is an honor to be able to contribute to the protection and sustainability of this valuable crop.”

AgBiome has already established a diverse collection of plant-associated microbes and has fully sequenced and annotated the genomes for greater than 26,000 microbial strains. The grant will support the isolation, sequencing, and testing of microbes associated with U.S. and African sweetpotato plants in an effort to discover microbes that are capable of controlling the weevil.

“This is such an incredible opportunity for us at AgBiome,” says Keyser. “The scope of this project is so much more than pest control or increasing yields. We’ve been given the opportunity to make a real impact on the health and livelihood of millions of people.”

About AgBiome

AgBiome discovers and develops innovative biological and trait products for crop protection. Their proprietary Genesis™ discovery platform comprises the world’s largest, most diverse, fully-sequenced collection of microbes, coupled to industry-best screens for insect, disease and nematode control. Better microbes. Better crops. Better world.

Link to press release here.

AgBiome™ Launches New Business Unit Focused on Delivering Innovations to Agriculture and Turf and Ornamental Markets

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C., July 5, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — AgBiome, LLC, today announced it has established AgBiome Innovations™, which will commercialize technology identified by the company through its unique Genesis™ discovery and development platform. The division is led by a highly experienced team of agricultural and turf and ornamental industry leaders and is gearing up to launch its first product, a broad-spectrum biological fungicide, in early 2017.

“For us, it’s always been about finding efficacious, environmentally friendly ways to help growers get more out of their crops,” says Dr. Phil Hammer, director of research. “Our team has isolated, sequenced and screened thousands of microbes, and discovered multiple new mode-of-action traits and highly effective biologicals. By establishing AgBiome Innovations and attracting a stellar team to lead it, we are taking the next critical steps to ensure our discoveries are made available to growers with the best possible support and stewardship.”

The Team
To help launch the new AgBiome Innovations unit, the company has recruited some of the best industry leaders in business and research. These individuals have proven track records in leading successful businesses and bringing new traits as well as synthetic and biological products to the market. The AgBiome Innovations team includes:

  • John Rabby (AgBiome Innovations Commercial Director)
    John is a former group vice president of BASF in North America, CEO of Makhteshim Agan, North America, and executive board member of Crop Life America. John uses his 40 years of experience in the ag industry to lead the AgBiome Innovations business.
  • Lee Simmons, Ph.D. (AgBiome Innovations Technical Director)
    Lee is responsible for overseeing all field technical trials, label and commercial product development. He is a plant pathologist and nematologist and has developed several nematicidal, fungicidal and fumigant products in his 20 years in the business.
  • Ted Piatt (AgBiome Innovations Sales Director)
    Ted directs distribution and sales strategies with potential licensing and distribution partners to develop and service sales channels for new products. He has 35 years of leadership experience in the agricultural and turf and ornamental industries.
  • Kyle Beery, Ph.D. (AgBiome Innovations Production Manager)
    Kyle is a biochemical engineer with more than 20 years of experience in fermentation and production technology. He interfaces with the business, research and development teams to coordinate the commercial production of biological pesticides.
  • Natarajan “Bala” Balachander, Ph.D. (Business Development Director, AgBiome)
    Bala focuses on new technology development and commercialization (including research and development partnerships) of seed treatments, enhancements, coatings, production and agronomics. He has more than two decades of experience in new technology development and new product commercialization for the agricultural industry.

The First Product
AgBiome Innovations is developing a broad-spectrum, biological fungicide that is currently in regulatory review at EPA. This product demonstrates efficacy superior to any previously available biological fungicide as extensive trials have shown performance similar to, or better than, synthetic fungicides for controlling brown patch and other Rhizoctonia diseases, Pythiumblight and other Pythium root rots, Botrytis (gray mold), and several other common pathogens. Product launch, pending EPA registration, is scheduled for early 2017 for turf and ornamental applications.

“It’s exciting to see our discoveries taken up by the AgBiome Innovation team,” says Dr. Kelly Smith, AgBiome’s Director of Microbials Development. “There’s no better feeling than seeing our efforts in the lab prove out in the field and get in the hands of growers.”

About AgBiome
AgBiome discovers and develops innovative biological and trait products for protecting crops.  Its proprietary Genesis™ discovery platform comprises the world’s largest, most diverse, fully-sequenced collection of microbes, coupled to industry-best screens for insect, disease and nematode control activity. Better microbes. Better crops. Better world.

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/agbiome-launches-new-business-unit-focused-on-delivering-innovations-to-agriculture-and-turf-and-ornamental-markets-300294268.html

AgBiome Innovations and SePRO Enter Commercial Business Partnership

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C., July 7, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — AgBiome Innovations™ today announced a new partnership with SePRO Corporation to combine their strengths to offer an innovative biological product to the turf and ornamental market. The first product, a highly effective, broad-spectrum fungicide, is expected to be available for applications in early 2017.

“Our ever-growing collection of sequenced microbes, combined with AgBiome’s proprietary screening capabilities, results in unique and powerful discoveries that will benefit horticulturists, landscapers, nursery operators and turf professionals,” says Dr.Lee Simmons, AgBiome Innovations Technical Director. “SePRO’s knowledge of the turf and ornamental market and expertise in commercializing products make them the perfect partner to bring our first product to these markets.

The new biological fungicide to be marketed by SePRO was developed by AgBiome, Inc. through its unique Genesis™ discovery platform. The product effectively controls economically important and problematic pathogens. This novel fungicide is a biopesticide with the efficacy and performance of comparable synthetic chemical solutions and will be OMRI certified.

“At SePRO we’re always looking for partnerships that will help solve our customers’ challenges in an innovative and sustainable manner,” says Mark Brotherton, Portfolio Leader, SePRO Corporation. “Our partnership with AgBiome Innovations continues that trend. The AgBiome discovery and development platform is unlike any we’ve seen, and we are excited to introduce this new technology to our customers.”

About AgBiome
AgBiome discovers and develops innovative biological and trait products for crop protection.  Their proprietary Genesis™ discovery platform comprises the world’s largest, most diverse, fully-sequenced collection of microbes, coupled to industry-best screens for insect, disease and nematode control. Better microbes. Better crops. Better world.

About SePRO
SePRO Corporation is a research-based Life Sciences Company focused on the specialty chemical and pharmaceutical industries. SePRO is recognized as an industry leader in providing the highest level of technical service to customers who operate in specialty niche markets. SePRO’s key business segments include the U.S. Aquatics Industry, Greenhouse/Nursery Markets, Professional Turf/Landscape Management and the Pharmaceutical industry, operating as ParaPRO, LLC. For more information, call 800-419-7779 (toll-free) or visit sepro.com.

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/agbiome-innovations-and-sepro-enter-commercial-business-partnership-300295608.html

Reviewing NC’s top life science stories in 2015: $500M-plus in funding

North Carolina’s life science community saw it all in 2015: billion-dollar deals, expansions, relocations, acquisitions, venture capital funding, an IPO, government grants, global accolades, a new pharmacy school and even two Nobel Prizes.Companies also raised a great deal of capital.

Life science companies across North Carolina raised some $500 million in public and private financing in 2015.
Read more at http://wraltechwire.com/biotech-3-/15193806/

Agricultural-focused startups are blossoming in the Triangle

North Carolina, and the Triangle in particular, has quietly blossomed into a hotbed of startups that are applying cutting-edge technology to agriculture.

The state is home to at least 50 entrepreneurial agricultural technology companies, with 28 of those companies based in the Triangle, according to data compiled by the nonprofitCouncil for Entrepreneurial Development.

“I think when people think about ag biotech and ag biotech startups, they think about really three geographies: here in North Carolina, St. Louis, Mo., and UC-Davis near Sacramento, Calif.,” said Scott Johnson, vice president of agricultural biotechnology at the state-fundedN.C. Biotechnology Center.

Comparing the size of these startup clusters, Johnson added, is problematic “because everybody talks about ag biotech with a little bit different definition.”

Indeed, CED talks about ag tech companies while the Biotech Center focuses on ag biotech companies, which it defines as applying the tools of biotechnology “to crops, livestock, forestry and marine life to produce more food, fuels, fiber and goods.”

Whichever way you cut it, the Triangle’s crop of entrepreneurial companies in this sector runs the gamut from A to Z – AgBiome to Zoion Pharma.