DuPont announced today that it has signed definitive agreements to acquire Verdia, a wholly owned subsidiary of California-based Maxygen. Subject to regulatory approvals and other closing conditions, DuPont will purchase the plant sciences company for $64 million in cash.
By acquiring Verdia, DuPont will have worldwide, royalty-free, exclusive rights to use Maxygen’s MolecularBreeding directed evolution platform (gene shuffling) for agricultural applications across its Agriculture & Nutrition business.
“Verdia will significantly enhance our gene research and trait discovery capabilities,” said Jim Miller, DuPont vice president, Crop Genetics Research and Development. “The technology should allow us to reach research targets up to three years faster and more efficiently.”
Scientists at Verdia and DuPont subsidiary, Pioneer Hi-Bred International, unveiled the first-ever agricultural trait developed through gene shuffling. Pioneer currently has this trait (glyphosate resistance) in field tests in corn and expects to have it on the market within the next five to six years.
According to DuPont, the gene shuffling technology should help Pioneer identify and develop a number of new traits to help plants survive environmental stress, including drought. Pioneer also plans to use the technology to develop crops that more efficiently utilise key inputs such as nitrogen.
Maxygen plans to use the proceeds from this transaction to fund the advancement of its human therapeutic development programs. The company is said to have an improved interferon alpha in development with Roche for the treatment of hepatitis B and C infections – an improved interferon beta for multiple sclerosis and a novel G-CSF for neutropenia.