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Agribusiness: Georgia biotech start-up announces agreement with Pioneer

InsectiGen, an Athens, Ga.-based biotechnology company, has announced that its patented BtBooster technology has been licensed by Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., a subsidiary of DuPont, for use in making better pest-resistant crops.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Developed by University of Georgia (UGA) Professor of Entomology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and InsectiGen’s Chief Science Officer, Michael Adang, the licensed BtBooster technology has the potential to help increase worldwide crop yields and farm level productivity. The BtBooster product can be effective against pests in both biotech crops and plant surface applications.

“Farmers today place a high value on insect resistant crops,” said Jim Miller, vice president, DuPont Crop Genetics Research and Development. “We’re excited about the possibilities this technology offers in order to help our customers maximize their harvestable yields and ultimately be more profitable.”

According to InsectiGen President Bob Ligon, the agreement with Pioneer is a significant step for the young company. “This agreement is validation for our technology and years of hard work by our team,” said Ligon, who joined InsectiGen after a stint as a Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) Venture Fellow, where he helped the company develop its business plan. “A solid licensing agreement helps reduce the risk factor inherent with any start-up. We expect investors and the industry to start taking notice of this development.”

“Without the help and support of the University of Georgia and the Georgia Research Alliance, we would not have made it to where we are today,” Ligon continued. “Thanks to their backing, we’re looking forward to our next step: raising capital, setting up new offices and building a team to help us develop our other biopesticide and crop protection products.”

Both UGA and GRA provided laboratory equipment, a willing supply of researchers and graduate students, grant funding and facilities for the company during the development of the BtBooster technology.

“Our BtBooster represents a breakthrough discovery that will enable a leap to the next generation of biopesticides and crops developed through biotechnology,” said Cliff Baile, InsectiGen’s chief executive officer, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Agricultural Biotechnology and distinguished professor of animal science and foods and nutrition at the University of Georgia.

InsectiGen’s scientific founders, Adang and Donald Dean, professor of biochemistry at The Ohio State University, have played pivotal roles in the discovery and advancement of Bt technologies. In 1995, Adang demonstrated a method of designing a synthetic Bt gene suitable for expressing high concentrations of Bt toxins in plants and was awarded a patent for his breakthrough invention. Dean has developed groundbreaking improvements in Bt toxicity and target range extension against mosquitoes that carry human disease. Additionally, Baile has founded seven biotechnology companies.

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