Bayer, Evogene sign wheat agreement

Bayer CropScience AG and Evogene Ltd. have entered into a five-year collaboration to accelerate the development and introduction of improved wheat varieties.

Improvements will be pursued for wheat yield, drought tolerance, fertilizer use efficiency and certain other wheat traits utilizing a combination of advanced breeding and state of the art genetic modification methods. Bayer will have exclusive rights to commercialize in wheat the traits resulting from this collaboration.

The collaboration further builds on an on-going partnership between Bayer CropScience and Evogene, which was initiated in 2007 and expanded in 2009, for increasing rice productivity and yield.

In a separate agreement, Bayer CropScience will make an equity investment of USD 12 million in Evogene at a price of approximately USD 7 per ordinary share.

On a global basis, wheat is the world´s largest crop in terms of cultivated area and one of the most important food crops. The critical need to provide sufficient wheat to meet the needs of the growing world population is widely recognized. Significant efforts are being directed towards addressing this challenge, primarily through programs attempting to increase yields and to sustainably reduce required inputs, such as water and fertilizer.

The collaboration will utilize Evogene's ATHLETE, RePack and EvoBreed computational genomic technologies for the identification of genetically modified and native traits to improve yield, drought tolerance, fertilizer utilization and certain other characteristics in wheat.

Bayer CropScience will utilize its capabilities in breeding and product development to incorporate genetically modified and native traits identified by Evogene, into its wheat pipeline for developing elite varieties displaying improved performance. The resulting improved wheat varieties will be commercialized by Bayer CropScience.

Evogene will receive approximately USD 20 million in the form of upfront fees and annual research payments over the term of the agreement. Furthermore, the company will receive development milestone payments and royalties on the commercialization of any resulting products. Further details of the agreement were not disclosed.

"The wheat industry is facing challenges such as changing climate, the decline of mineral resources used for fertilizer and the need to increase crop yields. We look forward to working together with Evogene in the area of wheat research to help tackle these issues," said Lykele van der Broek, Chief Operating Officer of Bayer CropScience. "Being market- and innovation leader in the crop protection market for cereals, we aim to become the partner of choice to wheat growers and the wheat industry and will offer superior integrated solutions to improve cereal production in a sustainable way."

"We are very pleased by this major expansion of our relationship with Bayer CropScience, a worldwide leader in innovative crop science, and we are confident that this joint effort will result in meaningful contributions to meeting the needs of the wheat industry," stated Ofer Haviv, Evogene's president and CEO. "A unique aspect of this collaboration is the synergistic combination of the two research approaches for trait improvement: advanced breeding and biotechnology. By combining these two approaches in one truly collaborative program utilizing an array of Evogene’s leading computational genomic technologies and Bayer CropScience's proven product development expertise, we anticipate opportunities for significantly enhanced results."

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