Agribusiness giant Syngenta will pay up to $113 million to acquire Pasteuria Bioscience, a small biotech with a novel natural process to control nematode pests in plants. Under the terms of the agreement, the Basel-based Syngenta giant will acquire Pasteuria for $86 million, with additional deferred payments of up to $27 million. The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter this year. The 21-employee company has worked out of the University of Florida Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator in Alachua since 2003, and began an exclusive partnership with Syngenta in 2011. Its products are based on the cultivation of Pasteuria, a naturally occurring genus of soil bacteria. The organisms are lethal parasites of nematodes with spores that attach and infect the nematode body, reducing its reproductive rate and killing it. Pasteuria's antinematode properties have been known for many years, but few researchers have been able to grow the bacteria in the laboratory. “It's a very difficult organism to work with,” says Charles Opperman, a nematologist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Most groups have only been able to culture Pasteuria on its host, which limits production of the bacteria. Pasteuria Bioscience came up with a proprietary way to grow the bacteria outside its host and in large quantities. “No one else has been able to culture Pasteuria in vitro like they have,” says Opperman. With chemical controls for nematodes being restricted or pulled off the market in recent years, for fear of environmental damage, the company's biological product should arrive at a good time. Syngenta expects to launch the first product, a seed treatment against cyst nematodes on soybeans, in the US in 2014, says Paul Minehart, a spokesperson for Syngenta.
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Waltz, E. Bacterial shield for seeds. Nat Biotechnol 30, 1158 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nbt1212-1158a