Cold Spring Harbor, NY — Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) announced today an exclusive licensing agreement with partner Inari, a company that is advancing plant breeding by tapping nature’s genetic diversity. The technology developed by CSHL Professor and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator Zachary Lippman allows Inari to tailor plant architecture and other traits in crops, improving productivity and quality to fit local environmental conditions.
Today, commercial production of major crops, such as soybeans, corn, wheat and tomato, relies on a handful of standard seed varieties—with limited options for farmers. Inari is applying the Lippman technology to its product development process, which aims to address challenges to our current food system, increasing plant yields as well as water—and nitrogen-use efficiency.
“CSHL identified Inari as an exclusive partner because of its potential to disrupt the market,” said CSHL President and CEO Bruce Stillman. “Dr. Lippman’s team has already demonstrated the power of basic research in understanding crop yield and this collaboration with Inari applies his research to help farmers deal with changing environmental conditions, water shortages, and threats to arable land.”
Lippman first came to CSHL as a Ph.D. student, studying how gene regulation can impact diversity. As a postdoctoral fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he studied how tweaks in gene regulation cause wide variation in traits. In Israel, Lippman and colleagues identified two genes—both of which encode regulators of other genes—that help control the branching of flower-bearing shoots in tomato plants. Recruited back to CSHL as a faculty member, he has studied the architecture and flowering of tomatoes, developing new approaches, including the Promoter Fine Tuning technology, to tailor the genes that control these traits.
Two years in the making, the licensing of Promoter Fine Tuning technology is consistent with CSHL’s strategy to pursue innovation in the focus areas of crop improvement, clinical diagnostics, cancer therapeutics and orphan diseases. Standard academic technology transfer strategy considers commercialization when basic research sparks an idea for a marketable technology. “CSHL’s approach is more forward-looking, aligned with its historic high-risk/high-reward approach to accelerating innovative research,” explained Andrew Whiteley, CSHL Vice President for Business Development and Technology Transfer. “We want to initiate relationships with industry partners while the technology is being shaped and developed at CSHL.”
Founded by Flagship Pioneering in 2016, Inari seeks a winning food system with its
industry-disrupting Seed Foundry™, a process which taps the natural genetic diversity of plants in the context of climate change and respect for our environment. Inari works with seed companies to co-develop high-performance seeds, with innovations directly benefiting farmers. Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with development sites in West Lafayette, Indiana, and Ghent, Belgium, Inari has a growing team of over 90-100 employees. To learn more, visit Inari.com or follow on Twitter @inari_Ag
Professor & HHMI Investigator
Jacob Goldfield Professor of Genetics
Ph.D., Watson School of Biological Sciences at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, 2004