(Formerly the Office of the Chief Scientist and MATIMOP)

Evogene and Biogemma: Collaborating to Improve Corn’s Resistance to Drought

The genetic enhancement of plants has become one of the most advanced industries in the world. Israeli company Evogene Ltd. is involved in this fascinating industry. Evogene's expertise lies in the location and characterization of plant genomes with the assistance of bio-technological measures to improve their traits. In short, this refers to the genetic enhancement of plants.

Evogene possesses technology based on computerized data-processing and as part of its activities, collaborates with other companies in order to develop plant seed with improved traits. Evogene approached MATIMOP to leverage its capabilities and locate potential partners for the development and marketing of new products in Europe, under the banner of the EUREKA program for collaboration in research and development.

MATIMOP, the Israeli member of the EUREKA program, located a partner for joint R&D with Evogene - French company Biogemma, which has extensive experience in plant research - and oversaw the process of formulating the collaboration agreement. The joint project focuses on improving the resistance of maize crops to drought conditions – a critical requirement for many areas around the world, especially in light of the global warming process. According to the agreement between the two companies, Evogene is responsible for the technology and the identification of suitable genes, and Biogemma is responsible for supply of commercial maize seeds.

Together, the two companies are conducting field tests under extreme drought conditions in order to assess the corn species’ improved resistance over time. The tests, which take place in Israel and the U.S, are performed on different maize varieties.

“MATIMOP assisted in forming the collaboration between the two companies,” says Assaf Oron, Senior VP of Strategy and Business Development at Evogene.

“Biogemma brought its complementary capabilities to the partnership and thus contributed to advancing the project to the next stage of successful collaboration, that is, commercialization.”

The commercial potential of the joint project is great. The global water shortage and the need to develop unexploited land which is considered inadequate ground for agriculture, lend tremendous importance to the development of drought-resistant plants. The project prospects look promising and already show a significant improvement in crop standards. The two companies recently announced the advancement of genes to the next stage of development (Phase II). This advancement is a significant milestone on the way to commercialization of the genes which hold the potential to improve the maize crop and its resistance to drought.

“Maize is one of the three major agricultural crops, alongside wheat and rice,” says Oron. “MATIMOP assisted us in forming the collaboration with Biogemma and we are very pleased. You can definitely see that the international EUREKA program contributed added value to the project and we see huge potential.”