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Agriculture Biotech Secures $14.5M in Early-Stage Financing

Fungi samples in test tubes (Agricultural Research Service/USDA)

Fungi samples (Agricultural Research Service/USDA)

AgBiome LLC, an agricultural biotechnology company in Durham, North Carolina, gained $14.5 million in series A venture funding, the first round of financing after initial start-up. Polaris Partners, a venture capital company  in Boston specializing in health care and technology startups, led the round, joined by ARCH Venture Partners, Harris & Harris Group, Innotech Advisers, and other investors.

AgBiome develops technologies from microorganisms associated with plants to improve crop yields, disease and pest resistance, and tolerance to environmental stress. The company says it is identifying microbes to increase crop productivity, as well as useful genes from those microbes. “Microbes associated with agriculture ecosystems are a nearly infinite source of useful new genes and biologicals,” says Dan Tomso, AgBiome’s chief scientist.

Two of the company’s co-founders are current academic scientsts. Jeff Dangl is professor biology at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, who conducts research on the interactions between plants and microbe pathogens, particularly the genetic composition of plants and microbes to better understand the molecular nature of those interactions. Paul Schulze-Lefert at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne researches the regulatory network underlying plant cell resistance to pathogens, such as fungi. Both Dangl and Schulze-Lefert serve on AgBiome’s scientific advisory board.

AgBiome applies genomics and screening technologies to identify plant-associated microbes to improve crop health, pest resistance, and yields. The company says its first product will be a biological-based compound that controls major soil-borne diseases faced by greenhouse and row crops.

The company expects to use the proceeds from the financing round to advance the company’s research and development programs, and support the launch of the AgBiome’s first products.

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