Bayer Advances Genome-Editing Initiatives to Enhance Nutritional Value of Vegetables

As part of its strategic open innovation approach, global life science company Bayer has advanced two initiatives with external partners to enhance genome editing in vegetables. Bayer has entered into an agreement with South Korean biotech company G+FLAS to develop genome-edited tomato varieties enriched with vitamin D3. Vitamin D deficiency is a widespread issue globally, affecting an estimated billion people and leading to health problems such as rickets.

“Bayer is committed to achieving ‘Health for All, Hunger for None’. This collaboration addresses a significant nutrition problem and supports a healthy diet through cutting-edge technology. The partnership leverages G+FLAS’ genome editing technology and Bayer’s proprietary tomato germplasm,” said JD Rossouw, Head of Vegetables Research & Development at Bayer, during the World Seed Congress in Rotterdam from May 27-29.

The agreement also aims to develop seeds for a broader variety of tomato products using genome editing, which allows for precise and faster changes to a plant’s genome. “Modern breeding technologies, such as genome editing, can provide health benefits and resilience to a changing climate. It is an important tool in a breeder’s toolbox, and we anticipate it being part of our pipeline moving forward,” added Rossouw.

“Bayer is deeply attuned to consumer desires for nutrient-rich and tasty foods. Our commitment is to meet these expectations, providing significant benefits throughout the value chain and enhancing the competitiveness of our growers,” stated Ruth Mathieson, Global Head of Strategic Marketing at Bayer Vegetable Seeds. “Addressing nutritional deficiencies is a driving force behind our growth and innovation strategy.”

In another strategic move, Bayer has obtained a license for genome-edited leafy greens from US-based agtech startup Pairwise. This agreement allows Bayer to work with and commercialize Pairwise’s genome-edited mustard greens, which offer higher nutrition and a unique flavor compared to lettuce. These greens were the first gene-edited food introduced to the North American market.

“This agreement significantly contributes to our open innovation approach. We’re excited to partner with Pairwise on their innovative leafy greens, providing a new, great-tasting salad option with high nutritional value,” said Rossouw. The deal includes commercialization rights for the varieties developed by Pairwise and the rights to develop new varieties.

Bayer has also launched an open innovation platform for genome editing in vegetables. This platform seeks to combine Bayer’s R&D capabilities with the expertise of external partners to develop new fruit and vegetable products with increased nutritional content, positive environmental impact, or enhanced consumer appeal using genome editing and new breeding techniques.

“Great innovations need great minds and the power of many. We are seeking partnerships with academic researchers and companies to harness the speed and precision of genome editing to develop new fruit and vegetable products,” concluded Rossouw.

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