To use RNA interference (RNAi) technology, Monsanto is partnering with RNAgri, a St. Louis-based startup. “RNAi can selectively reduce expression of genes that are necessary for the pest or weed to live so that the insect or weed is no longer a threat to crops,” says John Killmer, RNAgri CEO. RNAi is a naturally-occuring process first discovered by Nobel Prize winners Andrew Fire and Craig Mellow to target genes in plants, insects and fungi with specificity. In agricultural applications it can decrease production of a protein to create a desirable physiological outcome.
The companies plan to create agricultural products that can be produced at a large scare to control pest, disease or impact traits while being environmentally sustainable. For example, the technology will benefit agricultural production and help support bee health. The collaboration will focus on producing RNA to support what Monsanto considers priority research and development projects. “We hope to leverage RNAgri’s production technology to provide cost-effective RNA that can further enhance our research and development of products that hold great promise to help our customers,” says Jeremy Williams, Monsanto vice president of biotechnology and ag productivity innovations.