Led by former Monsanto vet, agtech firm moves HQ to downtown Durham

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By Ben Graham  – Staff Writer, Triangle Business Journal

A new agricultural tech company is making the short drive across the Triangle to set up its headquarters in downtown Durham.

Pairwise, founded in March, has been operating in temporary offices in the former Monsanto facility in Research Triangle Park. But a lease just signed by the company gives it 36,000 square feet of office and lab space at the Golden Belt Campus, in a location the firm says will help attract top talent and put it near new technologies being developed in the life sciences and agricultural industries.

The company specializes in developing and using gene-editing technology to alter crops, selectively modifying a plant to have, for example, a longer growing season. CEO Tom Adams previously worked on genetically modified crops, or GMOs, at Monsanto for two decades and says the company is working to develop crops for Monsanto’s new owner, Bayer, as well as consumer-facing products.

“We’re a company that’s interested in doing some things with crops that consumers interact with,” Adams says. “And being where our eventual customers are would be really helpful.”

Without outlining detailed plans for specific plants, Adams says the company is interested in “snackable” produce and lists berries as a potential area of focus.

Adams has moved to the Triangle from St. Louis, which is one of the few alternative sites the company considered for its headquarters. The company ultimately landed on North Carolina because of the available talent and the state’s diversified crop base.

The founders of the company include Adams, Haven Baker, Keith Joung, David Liu and Feng Zhang. The latter three are academics affiliated with Harvard University and MIT. With the lease deal in hand, Pairwise plans to grow its payroll from 50 employees today to as much 90 by the end of next year. The company will keep its 25,000-square-foot greenhouse in RTP.

The Golden Belt Campus is a 325,000-square-foot former mill used to process textiles and tobacco that has since been renovated into new office and lab space. With the most recent lease signed, the facility is about 75 percent leased, according to brokers who worked on the deal. Pairwise plans to move in next spring.

Pairwise will be joining WillowTree and Asheville’s Hi-Wire Brewing at the new campus, among other companies.

Article Source: Triangle Business Journal