Danforth Center Licenses Technology From Dow AgroSciences to Improve Important Staple Crop

ST. LOUIS, Mo.  — The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center has entered into a non-exclusive sublicense agreement with Dow AgroSciences LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company (NYSE: DOW), to access gene expression technology held by Dow AgroSciences. The gene expression technology was developed at The Scripps Research Institute, and is exclusively licensed to Dow AgroSciences. The technology will improve the Danforth Center’s research capability to develop cassava that can better withstand virus diseases and improve the productivity of subsistence farmers in Africa.
Under the agreement, the Danforth Center will be able to use a promoter, or DNA regulatory element, that permits disease resistance genes to be introduced and function in the cassava plant thereby blocking viral replication. The agreement with Dow AgroSciences allows an important addition to the crop improvement tools already in place at the Danforth Center. The laboratory of Dr. Claude Fauquet at the Center is developing the disease resistance technology, which is targeted at reducing the impact of Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) and Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD). Center scientists are working with African partners to improve, evaluate, and eventually deploy cassava varieties that will greatly reduce these losses and enhance food security.

Along with the completion of the cassava genome sequence, many pieces are coming together that will contribute to fulfilling the Center’s mission of enhancing food security for millions of malnourished people living in developing countries. The research collaboration on cassava between the Danforth Center and Dow AgroSciences began in early 2010.

“Dow AgroSciences is pleased to be able to provide the technology to the Danforth Center so that this important humanitarian work can proceed toward commercial development,” said Kay Kuenker, vice president, New Business global business unit for Dow AgroSciences.  

Cassava serves as the primary food source for more than 750 million people each day and is an important source of local income for small farmers across much of Africa, Asia and Latin America, but the plant is susceptible to a number of pathogens. This is particularly the case in Africa, where one-third of the continental harvest is lost each year to CMD alone. CBSD is considered to be among the most dangerous plant diseases in the world for the impact it can have on food and economic security throughout Africa. In the Lake Victoria area, more than 7 million people are at risk of famine each year because of plant disease threats. The enormous urgency posed by these viruses demands that appropriate tools be applied to solve the problem.

“We are very grateful to Dow AgroSciences for permitting us to use this very important tool to better enable our cassava improvement efforts and deliver the best solutions possible for the benefit of people who need it most,” said Dr. Paul Anderson, executive director of international programs at the Danforth Center.