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New Venture Aims to Commercialize RNAi Technology

TechAccel and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center have formed RNAissuance Ag that aims to develop sprayable insect control.

TechAccel, a Kansas City venture and technology firm, recently made several moves regarding development of RNA-interference technology (RNAi). 

This technology is a natural process that cells use to turn down or suppress the activity of specific genes.

TechAccel is launching RNAissance Ag LLC, a new company that holds the exclusive license to RNAi technology in partnership with the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis.
The new company will use the proprietary technology in the development of sprayable insect-control measures.
TechAccel is also participating in GreenLight Biosciences Inc.’s latest funding round, with an interest in collaborative research leveraging GreenLight’s technology in advancing biopesticides. 

“We are demonstrating the potential of RNAi technology to develop into a sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative to chemical pesticides,” said Michael Helmstetter, founder, president, and CEO of TechAccel in a company news release. “An RNAi pesticide is highly specific to the target insect and is not toxic to other organisms. Further, we believe biopesticides can be more effectively applied than chemical sprays, reducing cost, waste, and health risks to workers and the environment.”

RNAissance Ag,which is pronounced “Renaissance,” was formed following research at the Danforth Center funded with TechAccel’s first grant in the “Path to Commercialization” Program. The Danforth Center is one of the world’s leading independent plant science research institutes.

The RNAi technology was jointly developed by Bala Venkata, senior research scientist, and Nigel Taylor, associate member, and Dorothy J. King, distinguished investigator at the Danforth Center. 

“More than $40 billion per year is spent on pest control, yet over 20% of all crops are still lost due to insect damage,” said James C. Carrington, president of the Danforth Center, in a news release. “This new company is evidence of an exciting new technology advancing toward market with the potential to make a major impact.” 

The two actions are part of TechAccel’s broad strategy to develop safe, effective, and sustainable biopesticides to address global crop losses from pests, said TechAccel officials in a news release. TechAccel disclosed select additional biopesticide research and development occurring along several fronts: 
• Leveraging a stable nanoparticle technology licensed as a form of biopesticide delivery
• Piloting the injection of RNAi compounds as a delivery mechanism in fruit and nut trees
• Continuing development of a separate, novel RNAi biopesticide approach based on research underway in Europe

TechAccel also recently announced collaborative research with AgroSpheres Inc. to explore nanotechnology in biopesticide delivery. 

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