Pontifax AgTech Leads $90M Series B for Crispr Technology to be Used in Better Fruits & Vegetables

By Lynda Kiernan, Global AgInvesting Media

Pontifax Global Food and Agriculture Technology Fund (Pontifax AgTech) has led a $90 million Series B for Pairwise, a foodtech pioneer using CRISPR technology to develop better fruits and vegetables.


Joining Pontifax AgTech in this round was existing investors Deerfield Management Company, and Leaps by Bayer, along with new investor Temasek.

Founded by CEO Dr. Tom Adams and Chief Business Officer Dr. Haven Baker, with co-founders Dr. David Liu, of Harvard University, Dr. Feng Zhang, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Dr. J. Keith Joung, of Massachusetts General Hospital, Pairwise is finding new ways to address global food challenges through gene-editing.


“Pontifax AgTech is pleased to co-lead this funding round for Pairwise, one of the leading companies using technology in food and agriculture today,” said Ben Belldegrun, co-founder and managing partner, Pontifax AgTech. “COVID-19 reinforces the importance of health and nutrition and Pairwise provides consumers with new options in their produce aisle.”

As a mission-driven tech company, the team has built a unique crop trait development platform based on technology licensed from leading research organizations, including Massachusetts General Hospital and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, to introduce fruit and vegetable varieties with higher yields that offer a lengthened season availability, simplified harvest, extended shelf life, enhanced convenience, and better taste.


The CDC notes that currently only 10 percent of Americans eat the recommended daily allowance of fruits and vegetables. Not shocking, but still disheartening. Given this fact, Pairwise is looking to break down the barriers to greater consumption such as flavor, seeds, shelf-life, snackabillity, or availability.


“Families can benefit from having healthy foods available wherever they live, learn, work, and play,” said Ruth Petersen, M.D., director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, in a 2017 CDC release.


By harnessing technology, Pairwise believes that there is an opportunity to create a new horizon for the $66 billion U.S. retail produce market by bringing new kinds of nutritious choices to the produce department, and is currently working on the development of new types of leafy greens, berries, and cherries.


“People see innovation all around them, except in the produce aisle. We will give consumers new options that make healthy eating easier and more exciting,” said Tom Adams, CEO, Pairwise. “With this additional funding from industry-leading investors, Pairwise is taking a bold step toward achieving our mission of building a healthier world.”


It was March 2018 when Pairwise announced its $25 million Series A led by Deerfield and what is now Leaps by Bayer to develop its gene editing platform and to begin building its product portfolio. At the same time the company announced a $100 million collaboration with Bayer Crop Science (then Monsanto) to advance gene editing technologies for corn, soybeans, wheat, canola, and cotton.


This work is still being done by the company, and is ahead of schedule, developing tools that address challenges such as productivity, diseases, weather, and other critical factors affecting the long-term sustainable success of these row crops.


“Our investment in Pairwise reflects our thematic focus on the convergence of biotechnology and agriculture and the use of CRISPR technology to improve health and nutrition in food and agriculture,” said Belldegrun. “We believe that the combination of Pairwise’s gene editing platform, plant breeding expertise, and consumer food understanding creates a powerful engine that will be a game changer.”

Original Story can be found here

– Lynda Kiernan is editor with GAI Media, and is managing editor and daily contributor for Global AgInvesting’s AgInvesting Weekly News and Agtech Intel News, and HighQuest Group’s Oilseed & Grain News. She is also a contributor to the GAI Gazette. She can be reached at lkiernan@globalaginvesting.com.


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