Bringing Discoveries to the Marketplace

Our Technology Transfer and Innovation team connects plant science discoveries that have commercial potential with external partners that can bring their technology to the marketplace. We collaborate with a variety of partners, from emerging start-ups to large corporations, to facilitate the impact of our science.

Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator

Connecting agtech startups with infrastructure and scientific expertise allows good ideas to become commercialized products. We partner with the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2) to help early-stage companies conduct research to further develop and validate their innovative solutions that utilize digital agriculture to produce food more sustainably.

Meet the 2020 Cohort
  1. Agrospheres: AgroSpheres is transforming crop protection with AgriCell, a powerful enabling technology for the efficient and improved use of synthetic chemicals and biologicals. Principal Investigator: Dilip Shah, PhD and Kirk Czymmek, PhD.
  2. EarthSense: EarthSense employs machine learning and robotics in the field to increase yields, eliminate resistant superweeds, and accelerate crop improvement. Principal Investigator: Todd Mockler, PhD.
  3. mobius: mobius creates naturally biodegradable and compostable materials that can replace controlled-release fertilizers for improved plant and soil health. Principal Investigator: Christopher Topp, PhD.
  4. Plastomics: Plastomics is developing a novel delivery technology to introduce beneficial traits into the chloroplast of plant cells, creating crops that can better withstand the pressure of insects, diseases, and weeds while delivering higher yields and environmental benefits.
  5. Pluton Biosciences: Pluton Biosciences is supplying the agricultural industry with microbes that are specifically targeted at various pests. Principal Investigator: Toni Kutchan, PhD and Brad Evans, PhD.
  6. TerViva: TerViva is commercializing climate-resilient pongamia trees, a hardy legume tree that produces an annual crop of beans with up to 10 times the yield of soy, for over 25 years. Principal Investigator: Allison Miller, PhD.
Meet the 2019 Cohort
  1. Aker Technologies: Automated crop-scouting process that captures and analyzes the presence and intensity of pests and pathogens below the crop canopy. Principal investigators: Malia Gehan, PhD and Rebecca Bart, PhD.
  2. CoverCress: Winter crop that covers soil over winter, protecting it from harsh conditions, while producing a low-carbon intensity crop for renewable fuel and food. Principal investigators: Dmitri Nusinow, PhD and Dilip Shah PhD.
  3. Intrinsyx Bio: Plant probiotics that increase crop yield, reduce excess fertilizer and improve soil and water conditions. Principal Investigators: Ivan Baxter, PhD and Rebecca Bart, PhD.
  4. RNAissance Ag: Safe, effective and environmentally sustainable insecticide for precision pest management. Principal Investigators: Noah Fahlgren, PhD.
  5. SolGro: Nanoparticle film designed to increase crop productivity through light conversion on greenhouses. Principal Investigators: Ru Zhang, PhD and Jim Umen, PhD.

Technology Transfer & Innovation

We have a variety of technology licensing opportunities available, including antimicrobial peptides, steroid alkaloids, oil seed crops, and genome editing and mining traits.

Through our collaboration with the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator, (IN2), our scientists are helping five early-stage startups validate their technologies and make progress towards commercialization.

Antimicrobial Peptides

Fungal, oomycete and bacterial pathogens are a major challenge in modern agriculture. Despite the continued release of resistant cultivars and chemical fungicides, an estimated 10-15% of crop yields are lost due to these diseases on farms while post-harvest losses caused by fungal diseases lead to even greater losses in some developing and under-developed countries.

Fungal and bacterial infections also pose a major threat to human and animal health. Multi-drug resistant bacterial pathogens and infections by fungal pathogens are associated with significantly high morbidity and mortality in immunocompromised humans. There are a limited number of antifungal and antibacterial drugs available clinically to treat systemic fungal infections in humans. New antibacterial and antifungal agents with new modes of action are urgently needed in animal health and medicine.

Danforth Center investigators have identified novel peptides that exhibit broad-spectrum antifungal and anti-oomycete and anti-bacterial activity at low concentrations. These peptides have potential applications for control of fungal and bacterial infections in crops, animals, and humans.

Steroid Alkaloids

Plants and microbes are an important source of natural compounds for new drug discovery. To produce enough of these valuable compounds without reliance on the plant or natural microbe, the biosynthetic pathways need to be identified and reproduced to develop a sustainable production system. For example, the demand for opiate treatment drugs continues to rise and sustainable manufacture has become more urgent. The current process is expensive, energy intensive, and requires the use of hazardous chemicals that can cause respiratory problems for workers. 

These challenges have led scientists around the world to pursue alternative methods for opiate treatment production. In addition, an anti-cancer compound discovered from a plant species not amenable to cultivation cannot currently be produced in quantities to meet market demand. Now, after decades of research, the Kutchan team has identified natural enzymatic pathways that can provide the basis for new drugs and sustainable production systems for these compounds.

Oil Seed Crops

Vegetable oils are not only major sources of calories and essential nutrients for humans, but also important feedstocks for biofuels and renewable industrial materials. Plants show a phenomenal degree of adaptation and phenotypic plasticity in response to different environmental conditions. Membrane lipids are central to  this plasticity with their roles in cell structure, metabolism, and growth regulation.

Danforth scientists have discovered mutants in different pathways that increase plant oil and biomass production.

Genome Editing & Mining Traits

The application of genetic diversity mining and genome editing for crop improvement has been hampered by the lack of tools and process to address the low frequency of Homologous Recombination (HR) that occurs in plants. Editing and replacing an endogenous sequence with a user-defined sequence is inefficient, has a low success rate, and is very labor intensive.

Danforth scientists have discovered a process that allows programmable nucleic acid modification and targeting at specific genomic site.

Material Transfer Requests

Contact with questions.

Meet the Team

Claire S. Kinlaw, PhD

Director of Innovation Commercialization

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