Yenra : Gardening : Mini Chromosomes : Technology to introduce multiple genes into plants to improve crops for pharmaceutical, agricultural, industrial products

Chromatin announced today that it received $2.7 million dollars in grants from the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) Advanced Technology Program (ATP) and the National Institutes of Health to develop mini-chromosomes, the first technology to enable simultaneous introduction of multiple genes into plants.

The grants, totaling $1.9 million from the ATP and $800,000 from the NIH, will be used to advance Chromatin's technology focusing on improved crops for agricultural, industrial and pharmaceutical products.

Chromatin's proprietary multi-gene mini-chromosomes (MGMs) techniques can rapidly generate multi-gene clusters designed to ensure stable and consistent gene expression in plant cells. MGMs could decrease time to market for engineered plants by 50 percent and increase crop yields by 25 percent.

"These grants validate our science and will help us develop our technology in commercial crops," said Mich Hein, president and CEO of Chromatin. "The goal is to eliminate one of the most serious barriers to the widespread, safe development of genetically modified crops for better food, pharmaceuticals, textiles, and other important products."

By enabling the flexible and efficient introduction of large numbers of genes, including entire biosynthetic pathways, into plants, MGMs serve as reliable genetic vehicles for engineering new crop varieties that have multiple advantageous traits.

The pace of crop improvement through biotechnology is currently hindered severely because a successful method for the controlled introduction of a large number of genes simultaneously does not exist. Chromatin's technology effectively addresses this problem, and the successful development of MGMs could lead to engineered crops having improved properties, such as resistance to disease, greater salt and drought tolerance, and more nutritional value.

Furthermore, MGMs could reduce saturated fats in some plants with resulting health benefits, potentially lowering cardiovascular disease. MGMs also could allow chemical and pharmaceutical companies to use crops as cost-effective and environmentally friendly means for producing industrial and consumer chemicals, food additives, and pharmaceuticals.

Chromatin is currently in discussion with several pharmaceutical and agricultural biotechnology companies to negotiate commercial targets for the application of the company's technology.

Chromatin will use the ATP funding to conduct the research and development needed to validate mini-chromosomes as effective vehicles for delivering multiple genes. The principal investigator is Helge Zieler, Ph.D. The company will use the NIH grant to develop a rapid, cost-effective and high throughput mini-chromosome system that tests centromere sequence function in cell, tissues and whole organisms. The principal investigator for this work is Jennifer Mach, Ph.D.

Headquartered in Chicago, Chromatin was founded in 2000, based on technology developed in the laboratory of Daphne Preuss, Ph.D., and her colleagues at the University of Chicago.

Chromatin develops and markets novel proprietary technology that enables entire chromosomes to be designed and incorporated into plant cells. These engineered chromosomes make it possible for the first time to simultaneously introduce multiple genes into a plant cell while maintaining precise control of gene expression. Chromatin is employing these new genetic tools to design and market products that confer commercially valuable traits in plants, including improved nutritional and health characteristics, and can be used for industrial, agricultural and pharmaceutical product development.