Triangle companies increasingly seek out-of-state investors
Agricultural biotechnology company AgBiome has raised $34.5 million from investors that it plans to plow into research and development and the anticipated launch of its first product. The new funding is one of the largest venture capital hauls by a Triangle company this year.
The Research Triangle Park company, which has only existed since the end of 2012 and which previously raised $17.5 million from investors, intends to announce the new funding Thursday. AgBiome has 36 full-time and 14 part-time employees, and expects to add “a half-dozen or more” R&D employees this year and more than a dozen next year, said Dan Tomso, chief scientific officer.The company also anticipates assembling a sales team, but wouldn’t begin to do that until next year in conjunction with the anticipated regulatory approval of its first product, said Andrew Graham chief financial officer. AgBiome isn’t disclosing its hiring plans for its sales team. AgBiome plans to move into a new 30,000-square foot facility, which includes a 5,000-square-foot greenhouse, early next year. That space can accommodate up to 70 employees.
The company anticipates submitting an application for its first product to the Environmental Protection Agency in the next few weeks and hopes to begin selling it next year. That product, known internally as Howler, is a natural, or biological, fungicide that can be used by organic farmers. Most biological pesticides on the market today “just don’t work that well,” Tomso said. “Howler works as well as the flagship chemical solutions that are out there,” he said. “This stuff really, really works.”
AgBiome’s research is focused on identifying novel microbes in plants such as corn and soybeans that can lead to more productive crops. “We’re interested in microbes that live in and around and on plants,” Tomso said. AgBiome was founded by a group of industry veterans led by Scott Uknes and Eric Ward, who previously founded and ran Cropsolution, a Triangle agbio company that discovered a novel fungicide that it licensed to a major industry player. “This would have been very hard to do in any other city in the world,” Tomso said of AgBiome. “RTP is the Silicon Valley for agriculture of this kind.”
Graham said that investors are increasingly interested in agricultural biotechnology companies because the sector is less risky than with “human pharmaceuticals,” where companies can spend enormous sums on developing drugs that may not pass muster with regulators. The investors in AgBiome’s latest round of funding include Syngenta Ventures, the venture capital arm of agbio giant Syngenta, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, among others.
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C., Aug. 20, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — AgBiome LLC, a private company developing novel agricultural products to improve crop productivity, today announced that it has secured $34.5 million in Series B financing that will further advance the company’s research and development programs, and support the launch of the company’s first products. The investment group includes the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The University of Texas Investment Management Company (UTIMCO), Pontifax Global Food and Agriculture Technology Fund, and Series A investors Polaris Partners, ARCH Venture Partners, Harris & Harris Group, Innotech Advisers, Monsanto Growth Ventures, and Syngenta Ventures.
“Poor farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia face tremendous hurdles, such as unproductive soil, plant diseases, pests and drought,” said Vipula Shukla, Senior Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “This investment will ensure that AgBiome’s expertise is applied to creating new, affordable tools for these farmers that will protect their staple crops from pests and diseases.”
“We couldn’t be happier about adding these great new investors to the AgBiome family,” said Andrew Graham, CFO of AgBiome, Inc. “The combination of marquee investors, our R&D partnerships, and the terrific team we are continuing to build puts us in a unique position to be the most successful agricultural innovator ever.”
Tom Dietz, Chairperson of AgBiome’s Board, added, “These superb investors joining the syndicate backing AgBiome is evidence of how much the company has accomplished in the 2 ½ years since its founding. AgBiome is making a huge mark on the ag industry.”
Who is AgBiome?
AgBiome develops highly efficacious biological and trait products from the crop-associated microbiome. We have isolated and identified the largest collection of agriculturally relevant microbes, each of whose genome is sequenced, annotated, and analyzed using our proprietary informatics platform custom designed for microbial genome comparison. We test for activity with our validated proprietary screening pipelines for a broad range of agricultural pests and pathogens. Partnerships with leading agricultural companies, including Syngenta and Genective, accelerate our discovery process and allow us to deliver solutions to global markets. AgBiome is commercializing its first product, a biological fungicide pending approval by EPA, with first sales anticipated in 2016. With 36 full-time and 14 part-time employees, AgBiome will occupy a new state-of-the-art 30,000 square foot laboratory and greenhouse in early 2016. AgBiome’s products will help farmers combat many of the most important unsolved problems in agriculture, including insects, nematodes, and diseases.
AgBiome and Research Triangle Foundation Build Specialized Science Research Facilities, Expanding “The Lab” Campus
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, North Carolina – July 21, 2015 – AgBiome and Research Triangle Foundation today announce the construction of a new 30,000 square foot facility at The Lab in Research Triangle Park. The mixed office, laboratory and greenhouse complex is slated for completion and occupancy by AgBiome in December 2015.
Founded just over two years ago, AgBiome is on the leading edge of agricultural product discovery and has formed multiple partnerships with major companies for product research and development. “Research Triangle Park has grown a myriad of great companies, and AgBiome will grow to be yet another,” said Larry Daquioag, Agbiome’s Director of Operations. “Our close relationship with the RTF team and their understanding of our unique requirements have been major factors in our decision.” “RTF is delighted to build this new home for AgBiome,” said Linda Hall, Chief Financial Officer of RTF. “Their commitment to RTP is a wonderful cornerstone for our plans to continue to build and improve The Lab campus.” Barnhill Contracting Company is the general contractor for the project, with collaboration from Falcon Engineering, Rough Brothers, and the project architect, Integrated Design. AgBiome was represented for the lease transaction by Jim Allaire of Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer. AgBiome did not seek financial incentives from local or state authorities.
AgBiome, an agricultural innovation company based in Research Triangle Park, collects, isolates, analyzes and tests microbes with its proprietary Genesis discovery and development platform, for use in agriculture as biological products and as sources of genes for traits. AgBiome engages with multiple partners to gain access to seed and crop protection markets for its unique products, helping growers worldwide and building long term value.
About Research Triangle Foundation:
The Research Triangle Foundation of North Carolina serves the Research Triangle Park, a bellwether institution that was once referred to by Governor Luther Hodges as the “heart and hope of North Carolina.” Situated centrally among Duke University, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, RTP contains 7,000 acres, 40,000+ employees, and over 200 companies. RTP is also home to The Frontier, a new community convening destination at Park Center; and The Lab, a unique location for wet lab and office space located at 104 T.W. Alexander Drive in RTP.
Read more: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/business/article27905209.html
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. and PARIS, July 1, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — Leading agricultural research firm AgBiome, and Genective, key developer of biotech crops, today announce a strategic partnership to accelerate the discovery of new generations of insect control traits.
“Growers need new traits for insect control to counter the realities of advancing insect resistance. We are pleased to partner with Genective, aligning AgBiome’s unique insect control technology with Genective’s capability in developing transgenic traits,” said Eric Ward, co-chief executive officer at AgBiome.
Genective’s CEO Bruce Lee commented, “Our success in developing corn traits, combined with AgBiome’s unique pipeline for identifying a vast number of new candidate trait genes, will offer the seed industry a potential range of novel and critically needed products.”
AgBiome and Genective share the vision that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) constitute an important means to face future challenges in agriculture. The exact terms and rights granted to each partner are not being disclosed.
AgBiome, an agriculture research and discovery company based in Research Triangle Park, collects, isolates, analyzes and tests microbes with its proprietary Genesis discovery and development platform, for use in agriculture as biological products and as sources of genes for traits. AgBiome engages with multiple partnerships to gain access to seed and crop protection markets for its unique products, helping growers worldwide and building long term value.
Genective is a technology Joint Venture of two leading global seed companies, the French Groupe Limagrain and the German KWS Group, having its principal office in Paris, France. Genective was established by Limagrain and KWS to collaborate in the field of research, development and marketing of transgenic traits, initially for maize and, potentially at a further stage for other crops.