Elo Life Systems, a food and agriculture company with a mission to improve human health and wellness, has entered into a strategic partnership with the Durham, North Carolina-based Dole Food Co., aiming to develop multiple banana varieties, including Cavendish, with resistance to the devastating fungal disease, Fusarium wilt.
Fusarium wilt, caused by the Tropical Race 4 (TR4) strain of a plant pathogenic fungus called Fusarium, is a fast-spreading pandemic threatening the continued cultivation of the world’s most popular fruit in a $25 billion banana industry. The disease was detected in Colombia in August 2019 and is expected to spread throughout Latin America.
“Spread of Fusarium wilt would not only have devastating consequences to the banana industry, but also have a significant economic impact on farmers in the affected regions whose livelihoods depend on exports of the Cavendish banana,” said Elo CEO Fayaz Khazi, Ph.D. “To date, chemical and cultural approaches to control this disease have been unsuccessful. We’re excited to work with Dole, which shares Elo’s vision to improve the security and sustainability of the global food supply, to address this critical need and help develop new varieties that leverage natural resistance within several relatives of the Cavendish banana.”
“Bananas are not only the most popular fruit in the United States, but together with plantains, they are a staple food on which much of the world depends for sustenance,” said Patricio Gutiérrez, director of innovation R&D at Dole Tropical Products. “Our investment in this strategic project reflects our aspiration to improve a critically important food crop while helping farmers meet the continuous challenges to produce this food for the planet.”
Under the terms of the partnership agreement, Elo will be primarily responsible for the discovery, evaluation and development of multiple approaches to achieve resistance to Fusarium wilt, and Dole will be responsible for field evaluation and commercialization of Fusarium TR4 resistant Cavendish varieties. Dole will fully fund the research and development at Elo, in addition to paying royalties on the commercialized plant product.
As part of the collaborative effort, Elo will use its proprietary suite of tools, including cutting-edge knowledge mining platform, gene discovery pipeline, trait validation workflows and end-to-end expertise in translational agriculture, in combination with its proprietary homing endonuclease-based genome editing platform to develop potential TR4-resistant banana varieties in this important clonally propagated crop.
Elo’s mission is to create novel products that enhance the nutrition and diversity of the global food supply. To address agricultural needs, Elo partners with stakeholders in the food systems value chain to bridge gaps and meet needs across agricultural productivity, nutritional demand, food security, climate-resilience and human wellness. Elo Life Systems Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Precision BioSciences Inc.