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Monsanto, Biofuels Company to Research Algae Agriculture

Algae in petri dishes (Sapphire Energy)

(Sapphire Energy)

Agricultural chemicals maker Monsanto Company in St. Louis, Missouri and Sapphire Energy Inc. in San Diego, California signed a multi-year agreement to use Sapphire’s algae-based research platform for the discovery of genes applicable to agriculture. Sapphire Energy’s current work involves synthetic biology to produce replacement fuels for gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel from algae.

Under the agreement, Monsanto and Sapphire will collaborate on algae-based research projects, and Monsanto will make an equity investment in Sapphire. The collaboration will focus on identifying genes that positively affect growth in algae.

Monsanto says the partnership will enable Monsanto to tap Sapphire’s expertise and research tools to screen for promising traits in algae for modern agriculture. Robb Fraley, Monsanto’s chief technology officer, notes that “Together with Sapphire, we can identify genes affecting such traits in algae that might also be applied to corn, cotton, soybeans and other crops.”

Sapphire hopes the better understanding of algal science from the collaboration will accelerate the company’s efforts to commercialize algae as a renewable energy crop, as well as find traits that affect traditional agricultural crops.

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