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AgroSpheres Announces Strategic Alliance with Orion Integrated Biosciences

Wednesday, October 7, 2020  
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On the heels of $8.8 million in extended A-series investment from Ospraie Ag Science and Cavallo Ventures, AgroSpheres announced a strategic alliance with Orion Integrated Biosciences, a recognized world leader in the development and application of algorithms for the identification of very specific genomic regions know as motif fingerprints. The exclusive RNAi partnership will enable the development of a wide array of high-performing products in crop protection, animal health and biodefense. Orion will generate novel, ultra-specific RNAi targets for AgroSpheres’ crop protection product portfolio. AgroSpheres will provide access to the AgriCell platform for Orion to produce and formulate products for applications in biodefense and animal health.

RNAi (ribonucleic acid interference) is a natural process with a role in regulating protein synthesis and immunity. RNAi is the next frontier of molecular biology, enabling scientists to explore how genes function and fight disease.

AgroSpheres unveiled the agreement at the Ag|Food Tech 7: Workshop at Bonny Doon, which showcases some of the world’s most exciting startups to a select group of investors.

“Biologicals, especially RNAis, have earned a reputation for being well-intentioned but lacking consistent field efficacy,” said AgroSpheres’ CEO Payam Pourtaheri. “We intend to change that. Our partnership with Orion enables the development of environmentally-friendly RNAi-based pesticides with the kind of performance that can change market dynamics and go head-to-head with the leading conventional formulations.”

“Our patented technologies offer unique value to the grower and this collaboration aligns with our goal of expanding our RNAi capabilities on our path to becoming a premier crop protection company,” said AgroSpheres’ CTO Ameer Shakeel. “The AgriCell controlled bioprocess brings performance consistency, environmental durability, supply quality and cost management to the marketplace. Orion is the perfect collaborator given their proven expertise in genomic data processing and motif fingerprinting”

An RNAi-based insecticide targeting the Diamondback Moth (DBM) will be the first product commercialized from this alliance. DBM is a problem worldwide, causing losses estimated at $4 to $5 billion per year, in part because this pest is increasingly resistant to many chemical pesticides. These factors create demand for more effective DBM crop protection products, including eco-friendly biopesticides. Integrating Orion’s DBM target active with the AgriCell platform has shown superior field performance.

“The synergy of Orion’s target identification and design coupled with AgroSpheres’ AgriCell production and delivery technology is very exciting. It will allow us to quickly develop effective products for problems in underserved areas like emerging diseases, global animal health and biodefense that would otherwise not be feasible or viable,” said Willy Valdivia-Granda, CEO of Orion.

In addition to the formal business relationship, AgroSpheres and Orion intend to continue to collaborate in research areas designed to enhance each other’s technology platforms and capabilities. Willy Valdivia, Founder and CEO of Orion, will join the AgroSpheres Scientific Advisory Board, providing technical and strategic support related to AgroSpheres products. Valdivia was named one of the four most successful Latin-American bio-entrepreneurs by the Spanish Bioindustry Association (ASEBIO) and is the author of publications on data mining, infectious disease genomic and bioterrorism. He serves as a subject matter expert for the US government and the European Commission and manages active research projects in the US, Europe, Africa and Latin-America.

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