CRISPR salads – greens made tastier by gene editing – head to market from Durham startup

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A Durham startup pioneering the use of gene editing technology known as CRISPR is shipping its first products to market in what also is a first for the emerging CRISPR industry.

Pairwise announced Tuesday that its “Conscious Greens” are shipping to restaurants in partnership with the Performance Food Group, which operates in the U.S. and Canada before going into wider distribution at stores. The company also points out its foods “are reviewed by the USDA before entering the market and meet or exceed all FDA and state food safety laws and regulations.”

That’s not all the food in the pipeline. “Conscious Foods grows new varieties of leafy greens, seedless berries, and pitless cherries. Our first products [are] flavorful, nutrient-dense salad greens,” the company says. And the company has plenty of backing. Pairwise has drawn more than $200 million in investment capital and also has a multi-year collaboration agreement with Bayer Crop Science valued at $100 million.

“We’re proud to be bringing the first CRISPR food product to the U.S. We set out to solve an important problem – that most lettuce isn’t very nutritious, and other types of greens are too bitter or too hard to eat. Using CRISPR, we’ve been able to improve new types of nutritious greens to make them more desirable for consumers, and we did it in a quarter of the time of traditional breeding methods,” said Haven Baker, Pairwise co-founder and Chief Business Officer. “Launching Conscious Greens through this exciting partnership with PFG, is a major milestone in achieving our mission to build a healthier world through better fruits and vegetables.”

CRISPR (short for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats”) is defined by the National Human Genome Research Institute as “a technology that research scientists use to selectively modify the DNA of living organisms.”

As part of its effort, Pairwise has developed new varieties of Brassica juncea, a leafy green that is part of the same family of vegetables as Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and kale. With CRISPR, Pairwise has leveraged good traits of Brassica juncea such as its high nutrient density and natural resistance to pests and diminished its less-favorable traits such as its pungent flavor.

“We have taken the heat of Brassica juncea down a notch with our new varieties,” said Heather Hudson, Ph.D., head of commercial at Pairwise, told N.C. Biotech in a 2020 interview. “And instead, we’ve created new leafy greens that have mild, crunchy, fresh flavors.” Hudson points out that the nutrition profiles of the new greens are superior to those they could substitute for in a salad such as spinach or romaine.

Pairwise describes its “Conscious Greens” as “field-grown Superfood greens that eat like lettuce, offering a versatile new option for chefs and salad lovers alike.”

Harvard Health Publishing includes such foods among its list of 10 superfoods: “Dark, leafy greens are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and calcium, as well as several phytochemicals (chemicals made by plants that have a positive effect on your health). They also add fiber into the diet.”

These “Conscious Greens derive from nutritiously rich mustard greens and are part of the same family of vegetables as Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and kale,” Pairwise says.

The company has grown to more than 150 employees over the past five years.

Original Article Source: WRAL Techwire