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Crop Biotech Update

Local Investors Challenged to Support Genome Editing Start-ups in Africa

July 8, 2020

Private investors in Africa have been challenged to support the establishment of genome editing start-ups on the continent. This comes as it emerged that Africa, Asia, and Latin America have untapped entrepreneurship opportunities in genome editing.

Speaking in an ISAAA webinar titled â€˜Genome Editing 101: Getting Ready for Business', Kudu Biotech Director Dr. Nicholas Grantham explained how the local private sector has an edge, both in terms of capital and expertise, over government when dealing with start-ups in new emerging biotechnologies. "Many large agricultural companies are willing to finance the initial stages of a genome editing business in exchange for exclusive access to new techniques or a share in the royalties; but this of course relies on the identification of a suitable project rather than a design thereof from scratch," Dr. Grantham remarked.

According to Dr. Ning Mao, the Manager of Singapore Consortium for Synthetic Biology, a favorable ecosystem is key in catalyzing promising genome editing technologies from research to commercial applications. Dr. Mao singled research capabilities, funding, incubators and accelerators of ideas, and market access as important catalysts to emergence of start-ups in developing countries. "Resulting from these initiatives, entrepreneurs can be trained and their ideas actualized into starting up a genome editing company," she said. "Vibrant investors, besides providing funding, can also provide business coaching and meaningful networks for young start-up teams," Dr. Mao added.

It emerged during the webinar that developing countries are endowed with tremendous opportunities to invest in genome editing. Among them are emerging research centers with advanced genome editing technologies, good market potential especially in the agri-tech space, growing local talent pool, and increasing online resources for entrepreneurship education. "However, lack of technology translation mechanisms, regulatory uncertainties, ineffective network to connect people with different skills, and scarce infrastructure present a challenge in emerging markets," said Dr. Mao.

Former Chair of Argentina's National Biosafety Commission, Prof. Martin Lema, revealed that Argentina has seen a drastic surge in adoption of genome editing innovations in the last four years alone. "Most of these genome editing technologies are spearheaded by local companies and public research institutions," said Prof. Lema. He noted that the direction and advances for harmonizing regulations are encouraging to entrepreneurs in this field.

The webinar was attended by more than 370 participants from around the world. Subscribe through Messenger to get updates on the upcoming ISAAA webinars.

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