John Sterling Editor in Chief Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

Novel Tool Combines Computational Platform with a Portfolio of CRISPR 3.0 Genome-Editing Nucleases

Benson Hill Biosystems, an agricultural technology company, reports the launch of Edit, which is powered by CropOS™, a computational platform which, the company claims, is the only predictive engine targeted at the food and ag value chain to identify what sequence within the plant genome to edit.

According to Matt Crisp, CEO and co-founder of Benson Hill Biosystems. Edit is the first complete genome editing system made accessible to partners for the development of improved crops.

“There is an urgent need to redefine the model of crop innovation and drive greater improvement in the health and resiliency of our food system,” said Crisp.  “Genome editing can help level the playing field, empowering a robust community of innovators to modernize our food system with simpler ingredients and production methods focused on plant-based proteins and ancient grains, natural disease resistance, and other targets that create more choice for both farmers and consumers.”

To clarify further, predictive analytics are a core capability of the CropOS computational platform, explained Crisp. CropOS is comprised of data analytics and biological knowledge with scalable cloud-based computing (loud biology) o predict biological outcomes and provide improved decision support to plant researchers. 

“CropOS uses machine learning to calibrate and grow smarter with every data set and test trial, strengthening the system’s predictive power,” continued Crips. “Last year we opened CropOS as a community platform in which our partners can contribute data to the system and access the vast data and analytics capabilities of the platform to accelerate their R&D efforts.”

The Edit system combines CropOS with a portfolio of CRISPR 3.0 genome editing nucleases to create a genome editing system.  Edit has been designed to optimize plant characteristics such as flavor profiles, nutrient-density, and environmental sustainability with greater speed and precision than previously possible, say company officials.

“The combination of a machine learning-based prediction engine with best-in-class genome editing chemistry affords users of CropOS an unprecedented opportunity to innovate in a rapidly evolving food system,” said Paul Skroch, Ph.D., vice president of data science and platform engineering for Benson Hill.  “The parallel advancements in AI, big data, and the cloud are converging to address the most substantial challenge for an effective genome editing system: efficiently identifying specific sequence locations in the plant genome to edit.  Using an integrated platform, we are accelerating the plant breeding process and more fully leveraging natural genetic diversity as a differentiator in product development.”

For decades, high R&D costs limited advanced genomic innovation to just a handful of multinational ag input companies focused squarely on high acre crops like corn and soy and almost exclusively on defensive traits like herbicide tolerance and insect resistance that appeal to farmers, said Crisp, who added that . this approach was successful in improving the yield and the efficiency of those select crops, but it created gaps and unmet opportunity that we can’t afford to continue in a modern food system.”

 Crisp notes that a diverse community of innovators is emerging to fill that need and modernize our food system with a more diverse portfolio of crops and characteristics that appeal to both farmers and consumers.  Farmer-centric sustainability traits are those that improve the resource-use efficiency and resiliency of crops in the face of a changing climate. Consumer-centric traits improve the nutrient-density, flavor and texture profile to meet growing consumer demand for more health and diversity in our food system,

“The pool of natural genetic diversity of plants can be a powerful source of product differentiation to focus on sustainability, nutrition and taste simultaneously,” said Crisp.

“Few industries can have as much impact to reduce CO2 levels as food production,” pointed out Mark Cupta, principal at Prelude Ventures, which co-led Benson Hill’s $25M Series B round of financing.  “From photosynthesis efficiency to soil health, Benson Hill empowers organizations to reduce the footprint and increase the resiliency of agricultural supply chains, an approach that fully aligns with our mission to promote innovations that have a positive impact on climate.”

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