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GEN News Highlights : Mar 4, 2010

Cellectis Establishes Plant Science Subsidiary Focused on Meganuclease-Based Genome Engineering

New business aims to exploit meganucleases in plants and for the development of new crop traits.

Genome engineering company Cellectis established a new plant sciences subsidiary in Minneapolis. The segment will leverage the firm’s meganuclease technology for applications in agricultural biology including the development of new traits.

Cellectis plant science laboratories are located close to the University of Minnesota and its greenhouse facilities. Daniel Voytas, Ph.D., director of the University of Minnesota Center for Genome Engineering, will act as CSO. Cellectis expects to have six employees in the plant science business by year-end.

“The aim of Cellectis plant sciences is to support Cellectis’ existing collaborators and licensees in the implementation of our meganuclease technology in plants, to provide a comprehensive suite of services and expertise to a broader set of potential partners, and to develop our own traits in crops, focusing on high-value niche markets that are open to new entrants with differentiating technology,” comments André Choulika, Ph.D., CEO.

In January Cellectis teamed up with the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) (www.international.irna.fr) for a five-year collaboration spanning a number of fields including cell biology and plant and animal biotechnology. The organizations are investigating applications of Cellectis’ technologies including reverse genetics, homologous recombination, and gene targeting in various species except humans.

Meganucleases are sequence-specific endonucleases with long recognition sites (> 12 base pairs). Cellectis claims their high degree of specificity makes them ideal tools for genome engineering because they bind to and cut at a single site in a given genome. Cellectis has developed meganuclease recombination systems that are reportedly highly effective for performing excisions, modifications, or gene replacements in almost all living organisms.