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Chromatin Inc. Chicago, has entered into partners with the National Research Council Canada Plant Biotechnology Institute (NRC-PBI) and Cibus Genetics of San Diego, California, to generate canola plants containing mini-chromosomes.

The collaboration between Chromatin and Cibus and Chromatin and NRC-PBI are the first projects to introduce mini-chromosomes into a plant with significant commercial value. Canola and related crops are a $10 billion annual crop worldwide and are used for animal meal and for food oils and industrial oils, according to the Canola Council of Canada.

Chromatin's proprietary mini-chromosome technology allows the simultaneous introduction of multiple genes into plants without disrupting the plant's own chromosomes.

"Our technology is the first to produce plants with multi-gene cassettes that ensure stable and consistent gene expression," said Chromatin's CEO, Mich Hein. "While other technologies provide some of these attributes, the suite of opportunities promised by mini-chromosome technology is unrivaled."

Alternatives to mini-chromosomes that are currently in use introduce one or a few genes randomly into a plant's chromosomes. Without mini-chromosomes, combining several genes together requires many years of plant breeding, slowing the ability to introduce varieties with multiple desirable traits.

In contrast, mini-chromosome technology enables "stacking" of genes to produce improved product quality and increased yield, as well as resistance to herbicides, insects and pathogens, in a single event that does not disrupt the plant's genome. As a result, mini-chromosomes could decrease time to market for engineered plants by 50 percent.

"Mini-chromosome technology clearly addresses a number of important hurdles in the world of transgenics today," said Keith Walker, president of Cibus Genetics. "Ultimately I think mini-chromosomes could become the means of choice for adding traits to plants and could replace conventional transformation. "

Chromatin has entered into separate agreements with Cibus and NRC-PBI, though the two projects will mirror each other. Cibus and NRC-PBI, both recognize d leaders in gene manipulation and cell culture and breeding systems, will regenerate cells containing mini-chromosomes and develop them into mature plants.

"NRC-PBI has a history of successful partnerships and collaborations. NRC-PBI's partnership with Chromatin will increase our scientific and technical capabilities in canola improvement and diversification," said Dr. Kutty Kartha, director general of NRC-PBI.

Chromatin's mini-chromosome technology was developed in the laboratory of the company's co-founder, Daphne Preuss, at the University of Chicago.

Initially, the work with Cibus and NRC-PBI will demonstrate the viability of mini-chromosomes and will involve placing visible markers to detect and evaluate the chromosomes. However, subsequent experiments will involve the introduction of genes with commercial value, such as resistance to widely used herbicides.

"This project demonstrates mini-chromosomes moving from the technical proof of principle phase and into commercial proof of principle," said Hein. "The partnerships allow all three organizations to leverage their technical expertise to find the most promising path moving a product concept to market."

Results from the first phase of the collaboration between Chromatin, PBI and Cibus are expected toward the end of first quarter of 2004.


Recognized globally for research and innovation, Canada's National Research Council (NRC) is a leader in the development of an innovative, knowledge-based economy for Canada through science and technology. As part of the NRC, the NRC Plant Biotechnology Institute (NRC-PBI) conducts collaborative plant biotechnology research with universities, government agencies and industry, helping to transfer research to product development and commercialization.

For more information, visit

About Cibus Genetics

Cibus Genetics is focused on developing innovative products in agriculture a nd specialty chemicals utilizing Genoplasty, a proprietary gene repair technology. Genoplasty is a unique site-specific mutagenesis technology that allows precise changes to be inserted into target genes which may be used to introduce genetic improvements without the need for foreign DNA. In addition, the company has developed in-depth expertise in various crops in the area of in vitro cell culture and regeneration. For further information contact the company at

About Chromatin

Chromatin, Inc., develops and markets novel proprietary technology that enables entire chromosomes to be designed and incorporated into plant cells. These engineered chromosomes make it possible for the first time to simultaneously introduce multiple genes into a plant cell while maintaining precise control of gene expression. Chromatin is employing these new genetic tools to design and market products that confer commercially valuable traits in plants , including improved nutritional and health characteristics, and can be used for industrial, agricultural and pharmaceutical product development.

For more information, visit or call 619/200-7257.
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Publication:Biotech Business
Date:Mar 1, 2004

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