The University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF) has executed a non-exclusive license agreement with Amfora Inc. for a plant-based promoter technology developed by Neal Stewart Jr., the Ivan Racheff Chair of Excellence in Plant Molecular Genetics at UT’s Institute of Agriculture.
According to this news release, promoters are short pieces of DNA that control gene expression through protein production. They function like switches – when turned on, promoters can induce strong gene expression for a particular trait. The promoter licensed to Amfora has been shown to induce strong gene expression for beneficial traits, such as insect and herbicide resistance, across a variety of grass crops.
This agreement further underscores the importance of collaborations between researchers at UT and their counterparts at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Stewart’s work with promoters grew out of switchgrass genetic engineering research he was conducting at ORNL’s Bioenergy Science Center.
Amfora is a San Francisco-based biotech start-up focused on developing crops with enhanced nutritional content, announced earlier this year that it had raised a $5 million Series A round led by Spruce Capital.