Monsanto, Devgen Describe New Approach To Insect-Protection

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Insect Protection

Scientists have identified an innovative and precise approach to protect crops against insects, which models a novel application of a Nobel Prize winning discovery. The technology is expected to provide farmers with a new in-the-seed option to protect crop yields and present another tool to support agriculture's mission of meeting the world's growing food, feed and fuel demands.

The results of the companies' research were published in the November edition of the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature Biotechnology. The published scientific paper is a result of both individual work at Monsanto and Devgen as well as a collaborative research and development effort between Monsanto and Devgen.

The enabling technology, called RNA interference or RNAi, is a biological mechanism found in nature as a way to regulate gene expression. Monsanto identified novel applications of RNAi, enabling plants to be better protected against insect pests that feed on crops and impact yield.

"RNA interference is an incredibly promising method for crop improvement overall," said Robert T. Fraley, Ph.D., Monsanto executive vice president and chief technology officer. "Because of its specificity, this exciting technology can help us in areas of plant science that until now have simply not been possible."

"This technology has the ability to effectively control very specific plant pests," said Thierry Bogaert, CEO of Devgen. "This is a breakthrough in crop protection."

The research is expected to allow scientists to harness the cell's natural ability to regulate protein production and apply it to produce insect protection for the plant. Monsanto scientists are working on incorporating this promising application of RNAi into one of the company's future insect-protected corn projects.

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"Future products in our research-and-development pipeline such as those with corn rootworm protection could use RNAi as an important complimentary technology to Bt by allowing two different ways to control corn rootworm," said Fraley. "Offering farmers yet another way to protect corn against insects allows them the expanded ability to produce higher yielding crops that can support our world's growing food, fuel, and feed needs."

The 2006 Nobel Prize was awarded to Andrew Fire at Stanford University and Craig Mello at University of Massachusetts for their discovery of naturally occurring RNAi processes in animals.

Monsanto Company is a leading global provider of technology-based solutions and agricultural products that improve farm productivity and food quality.

Devgen is a top 10 public agro biotech company with agricultural business units focused on developing and commercializing:

-- a novel generation of biotech products to protect a wide spectrum of crops from damage incurred from pests;

-- biotech traits and germplasm to meet the growing needs for high yielding, high quality hybrid rice and selected small grains in India and S.E. Asia;

-- safer and more environmentally friendly agro-chemical products to protect crops from damage inflicted by plant parasitic nematodes.

Devgen and Monsanto have an R&D agreement in place committing funding from Monsanto for Devgen's research and is coupled with an agreement which broadens the relationship so that both companies can explore technology applications in their crop areas of interest.

Devgen's biopharmaceutical division develops a new class of preclinical drug candidates, based on novel therapeutic concepts, for treatment of a range of inflammatory and metabolic disease (diabetes, obesity) and arrhythmia.

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