URBANA, Ill. - University of Illinois and Syngenta Crop Protection, LLC, have signed an agreement to implement a commercialization strategy for intellectual property developed under the “RIPE: Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency for Sustainable Increases in Crop Yield” project. It is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
In the context of this project, Illinois is collaborating with seven other institutions to improve photosynthetic efficiency in food crops in an effort to help resource-poor farmers increase their sustainable yields.
This collaborative partnership brings leading academic groups working in the area of photosynthesis together with a major agriculture industry partner to evaluate and advance the technologies developed by the RIPE project. Syngenta will serve as a commercialization partner by providing research materials and facilities to support RIPE project goals, as well as bring the industry perspective for bridging key, fundamental photosynthetic research to commercial product development.
Mitchell Altschuler, former Intellectual Property Manager for the Energy Biosciences Institute at the University of California-Berkeley, will be the RIPE Intellectual Property Officer. He will ensure RIPE inventions are protected for commercial development in a manner that is consistent with Gates Foundation objectives. The collaboration is the first of its kind for a Gates Foundation-funded project.
“This is a win-win-win deal. The synergies give the academic partners, Syngenta, and the Gates Foundation, benefits that none of the partners alone could gain,” said RIPE project director Steve Long, who is a Gutgsell Endowed Professor of crop sciences and plant biology at Illinois. “It is a unique alliance that will accelerate the cause of increasing global crop yield potential, and provide a new model for industry-academia collaboration for the mutual benefit of society and industry.”
Associate Project Director Don Ort and Robert Emerson, professor of plant biology at Illinois and USDA–Agricultural Research Service research leader at Illinois, noted that in the search for photosynthetic traits to improve crop yield potential, there is a huge gulf between proof of concept, discovery, and delivering traits to farmers' fields.