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Gene promoter for worldwide market

September 28, 1999

CSIRO Researchers have found a genetic 'promoter' which will improve Australian agricultural production and provide access to export markets as well as vitally important research technology.

A promoter is a DNA switch responsible for turning genes on and off, and controlling the gene's work area and level of activity.

"Much of the current gene technology research in plants uses one promoter which is owned overseas," says CSIRO's Dr. Bill Taylor. "What we have found is a 'suite of promoters', called pPLEX, which works as well as the overseas version - actually, in some cases the Australian promoters outperform the overseas version.

"The Australian pPLEX promoters could be key elements in improving the field performance of crops, such as providing a greater level of protection from insect attack.," says Dr. Taylor.

CSIRO and RhoBio, an international organisation specialising in the plant biotechnology of field crops, have today announced a strategic research alliance to collaborate in agricultural biotechnology, centred around this technology.

"This joint venture further secures Australia's future in global agriculture, particularly in the development of improved crops," says Dr. Taylor.

"To ensure Australia remains competitive in the international marketplace, it is essential that we have access to the required technology," he says. "Often this access is difficult, as the technology is owned by overseas organisations and it becomes difficult and or expensive for us to obtain and frequently restricts our research.

"The exciting thing about this agreement is that it is centred around technology developed by CSIRO scientists, and we are protecting the technology for Australia's benefit, while at the same time, broadening Australia's global access.

"The technology provides great opportunity for improving agronomic traits in crops," he says. "The CSIRO team, led by Dr. Peter Waterhouse, has successfully tested the technology in potatoes, cotton and pastures.

"Our research alliance with RhoBio will see the technology developed for other major crops, especially the cereal crops wheat, rice, barley and maize. "RhoBio will actively commercialise the technology worldwide while CSIRO retains the rights for its use in Australia," he says.

"This agreement is part of RhoBio's strategy of developing solutions for agricultural production based on the improvement of plants through biotechnology," says Dr. Georges Freyssinet, RhoBio.

"The agreement enables RhoBio to supplement its portfolio of techniques and have access to intellectual property and commercialisation opportunities for this technology.

"We are very pleased to have strengthened our relationship with Australia's leading research organisation," he says.

RhoBio is a joint venture between Rhone Poulenc Agro and Biogemma. Created in 1998, RhoBio specialises in the application of plant biotechnology to field crop varieties. It carries out and develops the results of research in areas such as the resistance of plants to disease, the development of genetic engineering techniques, and the building up of gene libraries.

All research involving gene technology is carried out by CSIRO under the guidelines of the Federal Government's Genetic Manipulation Advisory Committee.

This research, currently conducted by CSIRO Plant Industry, was initiated in the former Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Plant Science.

CSIRO Australia

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