Genomics in Business: Meeting of Minds

Genomics in Business: Meeting of Minds

IP protection, regulatory affairs and the latest plant breeding technologies are the main topics at the Genomics in Business Conference, from 19-21 April 2015, in Amsterdam. Arjen van Tunen, managing director of KeyGene, one of the conference organizers, expects interesting presentations and debates on trends and developments in the international agro-industry.

“These days, plant breeding projects hinge on regulatory approval of the end product and intellectual property protection as much as, or even more than, the technology and research needed to create a new variety,” says Van Tunen. “More and more, companies are insisting on getting those regulatory affairs in order before they’re even willing to get a new breeding project off the ground.”

He continues: “That’s why there’ll be several sessions devoted to IP protection and EU regulations at the Genomics in Business conference in April. Developments are rapid and the costs of patenting an innovation and launching it are enormous. There will be experts to explain novel breeding technologies (n.b.t.) and the laws and regulations pertaining to it. They will explain the state of the art and zoom in on possible obstacles.”

This is the seventh edition of the Genomics in Business conference, organized by KeyGene and Iventus. This year’s theme (Traits, Seeds & Business) is expected to attract some 150 attendants from all over the world. Attendants will include entrepreneurs, scientists and financial experts from the agro, seed and biotech industries.

Turning knowledge into innovations
“The key issue at this year’s conference will be how to turn knowledge into innovations,” says Van Tunen. “The industry is developing plenty of applications for plant breeding, but it remains quite an art to develop new varieties and actually make money off them. Personally, I only consider an innovation a success if it results in a marketable product. Genomics in Business is a networking opportunity for everyone who is facing this challenge. This conference is unique because it presents so many case studies from the business community.”

One such case study is a project for turning dandelions into rubber-producing plants. “That’s a major project in which KeyGene is collaborating with Wageningen University and others. It’s a real production-chain issue, a great example of how you can get a project off the ground by involving many links in the chain. There is a demand for such projects as there is an increasing interest in becoming less dependent on Southeast Asian rubber production. We’re working on breeding new cultivars that combine the characteristics of Dutch and Kazakh dandelions. At the same time, other parties in our conglomerate are working on processing and developing applications for the waste streams, like leaves and root fiber, which are left over when the rubber has been extracted,” says Van Tunen.

Another case study on the program is Solynta’s potato seed innovation. “A totally different story. This start-up will tell us what it takes to begin such an innovation project, from developing the latest breeding technology to raising sufficient funds. Solynta’s experiences will be very informative for other startups.”

Collaboration is a must
The conference will also cover other big topics, Van Tunen says. “The conference will deal with all major issues. The food security problem cannot be solved at the snap of a finger. Increasing crop yield is certainly not the only solution. Shelf life is another important aspect, considering the time products spend in transit. A longer shelf life reduces food waste. And let’s not forget about the necessity to empower farmers and make microloans available.”

“Such complex issues cannot be solved in isolation,” Van Tunen adds. “Collaboration and a willingness to learn from one another is a necessity these days. I’m sure more is possible than we think. The Genomics in Business conference is an excellent opportunity to share and compare notes. With the help of our scientific advisory board, we’ve put together a great program that is bound to draw a large audience,” the co-organizer concludes.

Source: Food Valley Update March 30, 2015

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