Five years ago, EG set out to solve a major problem for the American farmer. Each year, soybean cyst nematodes destroy over $1 billion worth of soybeans in the US alone. Some fields are treated with chemicals and toxins but the environmental damage that would be created prevents wider use of these toxins. EG used its Adapted Traits Platform to compare domestic soybean plants to ancestral varieties that exhibit resistance to nematodes and identified genes that have been positively selected over tens and hundreds of thousands of years. We currently have two genes from wild varieties of soybean plants and one synthetic gene that help the soybean plant to fend off pests and diseases without the use of toxins.
One of these genes, EG261 has been lab validated in an independent academic lab to significantly increase resistance to nematodes and we have been issued a patent for the use of that gene. EG261, along with the other genes are currently undergoing two generation, whole plant testing at an independent lab to validate their impact on pest and disease resistance. Results from the first generation of testing are due in the spring of 2016 with final results in late 2016 followed by marketing to the industry.
In a project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Evolutionary Genomics is validating the function of EG261 orthologs to determine if they have a similar impact on pest and disease resistance in beans and cowpeas. EG has engaged an independent academic lab to validate the effectiveness of these genes in beans and cowpeas and is expecting results of that work in 2016. Building on our success in soybean cyst nematode resistance with EG261, we sought to find other crops where we could apply our gene identification method to identify genes responsible for pest resistance. We have identified pest resistance genes in tomatoes, potatoes, cotton, citrus and berries.