RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – AgBiome, the fast-growing agricultural technology firm spun out of UNC-Chapel Hill in 2013, is getting a second round of grant money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for crop research.
The Foundation also is an investor in the company. The amount of the new funding was not disclosed.
Target for the new grant is additional research into microbes that will target peses (sweet potato weevils) in Africa. AgBiome says it plans to “move lead strains into early product development for future deployment to smallholder farmers in African nations.”
The first grant was announced in June 2018, and AgBiome says that work led to [the identification] of seven bacteria and 15 fungi that could prove useful in the pest battle.
Just a year ago, AgBiome landed $65 million in Series C financing.
The investment group includes The University of Texas Investment Management Company (UTIMCO), Fidelity Management and Research Company, Polaris Partners, ARCH Venture Partners, Innotech Advisers, Pontifax Global Food and Agriculture Technology Fund, and Monsanto Growth Ventures. The round included a total of 17 investors.
The company raised $34.5 million in 2015. It has also received investments from Harris and Harris Group and the Gates Foundation.
AgBiome’s proprietary Genesis platform screens trillions of microbes, millions of gene sequences, and thousands of strains. It has discovered 3,500 new insect control genes and 200 active lead strains.
The continuing sweet potato project will be led by AgBiome researchers, Drs. Chad Keyser and Brooke Bissinger.
“We are thrilled with the opportunity to move this project to the next stage,” Keyser said. “We’ve made tremendous progress in the last three years and are excited to continue working towards a product for such a destructive pest.”
(The NC Biotech Center contributed to this report.)
Learn more: Research Triangle AgTech Cluster
Original Article Source: WRAL TechWire