As a yield trait innovator, our objective is to identify novel yield traits that act at a fundamental level in crop metabolism to enable the broad deployment of our traits across multiple crop types.
We have established a strong pipeline of performance and product traits, and have recently added programs for herbicide tolerance and disease resistance traits for Camelina into our pipeline.
C3003 is an algal gene, in-licensed from the University of Massachusetts. Based on GRAIN modeling, we believe that C3003 reduces the well-understood yield losses that occur through photorespiration, a side reaction of photosynthesis in C3 crops based on early positive results.
C3 photosynthesis, the simplest type of plant photosynthetic system, exists in most crops used for human consumption, including canola, soybean, rice, wheat, and potato.
Based on our research, C3004 in Camelina resulted in a significant increase in plant growth and vigor, increased branching and seed yield, and in some cases, increased individual seed weight.
Five Camelina lines tested showed statistically significant increases in several important photosynthetic parameters for plants, including CO2 fixation, electron transport rate, and the conversion of light energy to chemical energy (effective quantum yield).
These oil-enhancing traits can produce an increase in oil content in individual seeds as well as an increase in seed oil content as a percentage of seed weight, as compared to control plants.
Trait targets in this family are accessible using CRISPR genome editing. The Camelina line we have designated E3902 contains CRISPR edits of C3008a, C3008b, and C3009. This line has demonstrated increased oil content in field tests and is being scaled up to produce oil for customer sampling.
We are also deploying C3007, licensed from the University of Missouri, in Camelina and studying the trait in field tests.
Using the GRAIN platform, we identified four new targets that may impact seed development and/or oil content including C3020, which produced a 10% increase in seed oil content when engineered with increased activity in Camelina. Data obtained from increasing activity of the other three targets, C3019, C3021, and C3022 indicates these represent good targets for CRISPR genome-editing.
We are collaborating with the Rothamsted Institute, who are developing engineered Camelina lines that produce approximately 20% of EPA + DHA fatty acids, similar to the composition of Northern Hemisphere fish oil.
A number of these Camelina lines have been successfully field-tested for four years at different locations in the UK, Canada, and the US, and oil samples have been produced for salmon and human feeding studies, where equivalence to natural fish oil has been demonstrated.
The stability of Camelina seeds at ambient temperatures allows them to be readily harvested, transported, and stored prior to processing, making them the ideal site in a plant for producing PHA plastics.
We believe that crop-based production enables an advantaged cost structure that eliminates the barriers to the broad adoption of these materials for use potentially in animal feed, water treatment, and as a biobased, biodegradable plastics replacement.
These traits may be powerful regulators of plant growth and represent a potentially valuable resource for identifying genome editing traits for crops.
We have proven that traits from the C4000 series can significantly increase photosynthetic efficiency, above-ground biomass, and below-ground biomass production in our switchgrass plants engineered to overexpress the transcription factors.
The traits in this series and the proof points we are generating create partnership opportunities that enable us to further the development of these traits in major commercial food, feed, and forage crops.
Using our Trait Factory, we have identified the C4004 to C4027 series of transcription factor genes that are down-regulated in our high-photosynthesis engineered switchgrass plants as well as several new gene targets related to our lead C3003 yield trait.