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Roseville gene-editing firm Calyxt announces deal with soybean processor

September 28, 2018

Minnesota-based gene-editing firm Calyxt has found a market for its new, healthier type of soybean, announcing a deal with a soybean processor in Iowa.

The agreement disclosed this week with American Natural Processors, a non-GMO processor of oils, flours and meals based in Cherokee, Iowa, means that products made with Calyxt’s high-tech soybeans could start hitting the market in late 2018 or early 2019.

“With this collaboration, Calyxt has taken an important step toward the commercialization of our high-oleic soybean oil by contracting with a processor with a strong track record of food quality and safety, and that is committed to the non-GMO and organic industries,” Manoj Sahoo, Calyxt’s chief commercial officer, said in a statement.

Calyxt, based in Roseville and a subsidiary of French pharmaceutical firm Cellectis, got an exclusive license in 2015 to commercialize University of Minnesota-developed technology that can edit the genes of plants.

The company’s technology — known as TALEN — uses “molecular scissors” to create desirable traits and does not add foreign DNA during the process, so its plants are not considered GMO.

The company’s chief science officer is Dan Voytas, a professor in the U’s Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development who is one of the inventors of TALEN.

The company says it can use the innovation to remove the genes that are responsible for trans-fats in soybean oil. The oil from this new variety of soybeans is designed to eliminate the need for hydrogenation, a process that improves heat stability and shelf life of conventional soybean oil.

Gene-editing is one of the hottest topics in agriculture, as major seed companies are still working to dig out of the public relations and regulatory nightmare of genetically-modified organisms.

In mid-2015, Calyxt received a letter from the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirming that its new soybean variety is non-regulated, since the product contains no foreign DNA. The company has received similar approvals for varieties of wheat, alfalfa and potatoes.

Adam Belz • 612-673-4405 Twitter: @adambelz

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