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Plastomics Biotechnology startup to develop the next generation crops

Plastomics, a St. Louis based agtech startup, believes they have found one answer to that problem through the engineering of plant chloroplasts.

Plastomics CEO, Sharon Berberich, "The agriculture world is looking for technology to maintain the effectiveness of biotech crops because, in the face of climate change and all these other challenges, we have to maintain that high level of productivity."

The chloroplast is the site of photosynthesis, the process of converting sunlight and carbon dioxide into energy for the plant. Plastomics’ chloroplast engineering is a platform that can efficiently introduce multiple traits into the chloroplast and enable simple, more predictable breeding of traits.

“We can actually bioengineer traits like insect resistance, drought tolerance, herbicide tolerance into the chloroplast as an additional site for putting traits into biotech crops,” said Berberich. “Insects are becoming resistant, weeds are becoming resistant, and basically the industry is having to respond by putting multiple layers of technology or traits into these crops.”

Chloroplast traits are inherited only through seed, which simplifies breeding and eliminates trait escape via pollen, a key stewardship issue for certain crops. Plastomics’ chloroplast engineering platform is a fast, efficient and more predictable way to introduce multiple traits into important crops that can also reduce time to market.

Plastomics is still a very young company, founded in December of 2016 by Jeff Staub, PhD. Berberich joined in February. They set up a model crop system in Q1 of this year and secured funding through BioGenerator and the Yield Lab.

Plastomics is currently working on tobacco, soy and corn platforms and creating proof of concept products which they plan on having completed by Q1 2018. Berberich said that they are already at work lining up their $1.5 million Series A investment round.

Plastomics was also one of 16 companies chosen by the St. Louis Regional Chamber to attend New York and San Francisco’s TechCrunch events in September.

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