Calyxt, a food technology company spawned by the University of Minnesota, said this week it will offer its gene-editing technology in licensing deals to other companies.
The company — whose technology is known as TALEN and uses “molecular scissors” to remove undesirable traits in plants — had until recently focused on contracting with farmers to grow their seeds and managing the manufacture of products made from the crops.
It is now in talks with several companies to license its technology or the specific traits in plants it has developed.
“It would be a competitor to the CRISPR technology that’s out there, but we believe we have a little cleaner commercialization plan with TALEN than what CRISPR has,” said Travis Frey, the firm’s chief technology officer.
One high-profile example was high-oleic soybeans, which were converted into oil by a processor in Iowa and sold under the Calyxt brand Calyno.
In its new emphasis on licensing its technology and the traits it develops, Calyxt is pivoting away from managing the processing and sale of end products like oil, Frey said.
“Most of the partners we’re looking at are probably going to put it under their own brand,” Frey said. “They’re just much better at doing that, and the other thing is it helps us get revenue. We can earn cash sooner.”
The publicly traded firm, launched in 2019, said it is in the “advanced” stages of developing improved-digestibility alfalfa, high fiber wheat, feminized and low THC hemp for fiber, food and CBD, gluten-free and cold-tolerant oats and pulses with improved flavor and protein.
Companies that want to develop products with that technology, or with traits developed by Calyxt, will now be able to secure a license.
Based in Roseville, the company got an exclusive license in 2015 to commercialize technology developed at the U’s Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development.
Calyxt has not turned a profit since its inception and lost $39.6 million in 2019, but gene-editing is one of the hottest topics in agriculture.
Major seed companies are still working to dig out of the public relations and regulatory quagmire of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Gene-editing does not add foreign DNA to plants so the resulting products are not considered to be GMOs.