Originally published on Bayer.com
he Bayer Trendlines Ag Innovation Fund, set up by Bayer CropScience LLC (“Bayer”) and The Trendlines Group Ltd. (“Trendlines”), announced that it established EcoPhage Ltd. (“EcoPhage”), a new company focused on discovering and developing environmentally friendly products for disease control in agriculture.
The Company will leverage a disruptive technology for using bacteriophages, viruses that attack bacteria, for crop protection. The technology was developed by Professor Rotem Sorek of Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science (“Weizmann”). Professor Sorek is a recognized world leader known for his groundbreaking research on the interactions between bacteria and bacteriophages. Several companies have been founded to commercialize Professor Sorek’s technologies, provided under license from Yeda Research and Development Company Ltd. (“Yeda”), Weizmann’s technology transfer company.
Farmers’ need for effective, environmentally friendly solutions to combat bacterial diseases in crops prompted the effort to seek additional approaches. Bacteriophages have been recognized as natural enemies of bacteria for decades; yet, there has been a lack of technology for pinpointing the “right” phage combination to effectively fight disease, which inhibited acceptance for applications in agriculture.
Based on the discoveries made by Professor Sorek, and now held by EcoPhage for crop protection under exclusive license from Yeda, the Company is poised to develop effective, eco-friendly treatments against crop diseases.
“Farmers tell us they need new tools to combat the diseases that can ravage their crops,” said Dr. Robert (Bob) Reiter, Head of Research and Development for the Crop Science division of Bayer. “We’re finding innovative ways to pursue new leads in crop protection, and EcoPhage’s focus on bacteriophages exemplifies that approach.”
Professor Sorek notes: “Bacteriophages can efficiently eradicate the target pathogenic bacteria, while leaving the ‘good’ bacteria unharmed. As they do not interact with the plant itself, they can become a very powerful solution for usage in agricultural settings.”
“The environmental impact of modern farming technologies makes it critical to find even more effective, friendlier technologies that will protect crops. EcoPhage will be harvesting the natural power of bacteriophages to fight crop diseases. The company came together as the result of a year-long, intensive collaborative effort between Yeda, Bayer, and Trendlines,” says Steve Rhodes, Chairman and CEO of Trendlines. “We are excited by the tremendous potential of this new company and look forward to it growing into a major contributor to the world of crop protection.”
EcoPhage is the second company established by the Bayer Trendlines Ag Innovation Fund. The first company was IBI Ag Ltd., which is developing eco-friendly, highly targeted solutions for pest control.
The Bayer Trendlines Ag Innovation Fund was established in April 2016 as a collaborative partnership between The Trendlines Group and Bayer to invest in agricultural technologies. The partnership agreement includes a USD 10 million investment from Bayer. Bayer’s decades of experience in agricultural science, innovation and regulatory affairs, alongside Trendlines’ specialization in investing in innovative, early-stage medical and agricultural technologies, form the base of this strong alliance.