22nd Century Group, Inc. (OTCBB: XXII) today announced that the European Patent Office issued a Notice of Grant to the company for the NBB and A622 genes. Both genes are responsible for nicotine production in the tobacco plant. International Patent Application PCT/IB2006/004043, from which European Patent Application No. 06848676.0 was derived, covers methods for producing tobacco plants with increased nicotine levels and tobacco plants and products produced therefrom. Patents will be issued by the European Patent Office in countries selected by 22nd Century within the next few months and will expire in September 2026.
Dr. Takashi Hashimoto of the Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST), a world-renowned plant molecular biologist, is an inventor of the technology. 22nd Century funded research and development at NAIST from 2005 to 2009 and NAIST assigned various related patent families to 22nd Century in 2010, including the NBB and A622 technologies. International Patent Application PCT/IB2006/001741 covers methods utilizing NBB and A622 for producing tobacco plants and products with decreased nicotine levels.
The NBB gene encodes a protein involved in the final step of nicotine biosynthesis, "nicotine synthase," which has eluded scientists for decades. This protein can either be down-regulated or up-regulated to produce tobacco varieties with a wide range of nicotine levels.
The company's vice president of research and development, Dr. Michael Moynihan stated, "The NBB gene technology is one of the keystones of 22nd Century's intellectual property and represents our second-generation gene technology that has significant advantages over our earlier technology." Specifically, the sole function of NBB is to produce nicotine and other nicotinic alkaloids.