Biotech Updates

Michigan State University Licenses 'High Oil' Gene to BASF

October 2, 2009

A novel gene that could be used to enhance plants' seed oil content for food and animal feed applications has been licensed to BASF Plant Science under an exclusive commercial agreement with Michigan State University. The gene, dubbed Wrinkled1, encodes a transcription factor that controls the conversion of sugars into fatty acids. It was first discovered in Arabidopsis mutants sporting wrinkly seeds by MSU plant biologist Cristoph Benning. Enhancing the expression of this gene, the MSU researcher said, is a viable strategy to increase the oil content in seeds. The worldwide license applies to development of Wrinked1 in canola and soybean for the life of the patents, approximately 20 years.

"Beyond the application in seeds as currently licensed by BASF Plant Science, we believe that MSU can use this transcription factor to convert a starch storage organ into an oil storage organ in plants such as rutabaga," Benning said. "Moreover, we are confident that we can use Wrinkled1 to produce oil in straw of different grasses to enhance their energy density.

The press release is available at