Ceres, Inc. (Nasdaq: CERE), an agricultural biotechnology company, has been awarded a U.S. patent for its iCODE multi-gene trait development system. The company indicated that the patent award is a key milestone in its plan to further develop and license this technology to other crop companies and organizations.
iCODE was developed to rapidly create, evaluate and select optimal combinations of genes and their control components for next-generation biotechnology traits in crops such as corn and soybean. The system is significantly more powerful than current practices. iCODE, which is an acronym for Intelligent Combinatorial Optimization and Directed Evolution, utilizes a plant cell's own gene-shuffling system to create thousands of test plants with various novel combinations of pre-selected genes and promoters, which are the on-off switches for genes. Due to the efficiency of the system, Ceres says that iCODE can enable new kinds of discoveries and allow even smaller research programs to better compete against much larger competitors.
Ceres President and CEO Richard Hamilton noted that iCODE has the potential to revolutionize how traits are developed for many crops and can create new opportunities for intellectual property around proprietary combinations of genes and promoters. "Seed and trait companies rely on intellectual property protection, and iCODE could play a key role for companies attempting to access this new IP landscape. The first to unlock the potential will have a significant advantage in this area," he suggested.
In practice, iCODE allows researchers to empirically test thousands of gene and promoter combinations in a single acre. Unlike first-generation traits, which usually consist of a single gene per trait, today's biotech traits under development often pair multiple genes with multiple promoters to produce favorable characteristics. However, creating the thousands of combinations of genes and promoters that are required to identify the optimal candidates is time-consuming and costly, and has often eluded even the most robust trait development pipelines. iCODE helps solve this issue by providing an efficient, high-throughput approach.
The iCODE system is the latest in a line of innovations from Ceres. The company pioneered gene discovery and genome annotation through the use of high-throughput DNA sequencing systems in plants and was the first to utilize a two-species development system to identify plant genes that offer agronomic improvements— a system that was later followed by other plant science companies. Ceres is deploying the multi-gene trait development system internally and believes there are opportunities to out-license the system to other crop biotechnology companies. The company is currently in discussions with institutions and companies to establish best practices for evaluating the technology for larger scale deployment.
Today's announcement follows a recent patent awarded to Ceres for a genetic sequence derived from soybean, covering uses of the gene in areas such as research, product development and plant transformation. The company believes that its gene is useful in regulating key biosynthetic processes that are the target of a class of commercial herbicides. Ceres plans to offer other seed companies a commercial license to the innovation, including an opportunity for exclusivity in certain crops.
The new patent announced today was issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office as U.S. Patent No. 9,101,100 and is titled Methods and Materials for High Throughput Testing of Transgene Combinations. Ceres owns or maintains exclusive licensed rights to approximately 95 issued patents and numerous pending patent applications in the United States and in various foreign jurisdictions. A patent is an intellectual property right granted by a government to an inventor to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling the invention for a limited time in exchange for public disclosure of the invention when the patent is granted.
SOURCE Ceres, Inc.