Biogemma is a European plant biotechnology company founded in 1997 by seed companies and French field crop producers. Its original mission was to create new genetic variability via GM traits to be exploited by its shareholding companies. With the arrival of the plant genomics boom in 1999-2000, Biogemma’s role was enlarged to include the development of genomics tools for its main target species and the production of informative markers for genes identified in the genomics projects. These marker- trait associations support the marker-assisted breeding programmes of their shareholders. We are and have been involved in numerous collaborations, ranging from almost exclusively scientific work in initiatives like the French Génoplante programme, and its latest form the GIS Green Biotechnology, or EU research projects, to targeted collaborations with biotech companies worldwide aimed at commercial development.
Biogemma’s mission is to discover or acquire genes and technologies which control the expression of traits of commercial interest to their shareholders.
These technologies and genes are used:
- To generate new genetic variability via GM Trait development
- To validate novel alleles or allelic combinations of those genes to be exploited using molecular assisted breeding in our shareholders programs
In order to achieve its mission, Biogemma works with partners all around the World helping us to maintain a strong innovative culture. Biogemma’s innovation pipeline is focused on delivering technology and products to improve shareholders’ competitiveness.
To fulfil its mission of creating new variability, Biogemma has developed an efficient transgenic pipeline. Gene constructs are built in proprietary vectors and transformed into maize and wheat using either FTO or proprietary technologies. The aim is to validate genes in our species of interest within 3 to 4 years and to prepare transgenic events for commercial deregulation.
At the same time, marker-gene trait association are transferred to our shareholders for use on their molecular breeding programs.
Today, Biogemma has around 80 staff and 4 sites. Research programmes focus on maize (corn), wheat, oilseed rape (canola) and sunflower.
The Biogemma headquarters is based in Paris (FR), where we have our main support services in human resources and finance.
The main cereal genomics and transgenesis laboratory is based near Clermont-Ferrand (FR). It houses around 55 of our staff and in addition to the cereal programmes in maize and wheat, it is home to our central genomics platform, with access to state-of-the-art transcriptome and next-generation sequencing technologies as well as our bioinformatics service.
The oilseed research laboratory near Toulouse (FR) has around 20 staff and is home to our genetics and genomics programmes in sunflower and oilseed rape as well as our plant pathology platform.
The field trial station in Ames (USA) is dedicated to the evaluation of experimental transgenic cereals across the USA.
Biogemma is built around 4 core platforms in 4 species, and an upstream technology support.
The genetics platform integrates data from bi-parental populations (QTL) and wide variability panels representing natural variation (association) as well as mutant populations to analyse genetic factors underlying our traits of interest. High density maps and deeply genotyped panels provide the tools to identify precise locations for such genetic factors. Depending upon the species and the quality of the available data, we are able to get to within a few genes from the causal gene underlying these factors.
Evaluation of the genetic composition of traits – either by traditional genetics or GM approaches – is impossible without a strong capacity to analyse the performance of the plant. Biogemma uses a wide variety of technologies from the glasshouse to the field and from individual tissues to the crop level to analyse plant performance under normal and stressed conditions – both abiotic and biotic. The different levels of phenotyping provide the opportunity to take apart yield components and to determine their response to the environment. This allows both dissection of the genetic background of traits in conjunction with the genetics platform and evaluation of the effects of our transgenes in conjunction with the transgenics platform.
Identifying causal genes for traits and selecting the right genes for a transgenic solution requires a strong integrative approach: genetic co-localisation, either in QTL or association studies, together with functional annotation and gene expression data build a case for the involvement of a candidate gene in a trait. The Gene Discovery platform brings all the available data together on the genome of each of the four species worked on and allows us to select the genes with the strongest data. These are then either sent back to the genetics platform for more detailed analysis and use in the Native Trait programme or transferred to the transgenesis pipeline.
The transgenesis platform is built around four main entities allowing us to go from the gene to the field:
- Two efficient transformation systems, one each for wheat and maize, including construct preparation, tissue culture and production of early generation transgenic seeds,
- A field trial platform in the USA, providing the essential phenotyping tool to evaluate the performance of each gene or combination of genes, and
- A dedicated monitoring and quality control system that ensures that all regulatory requirements for the production and use of transgenic plants are complied with.
Together, this platform provides the tool to evaluate the effect of single genes in complex traits and select our best genes product development.
Genomics and bioinformatics upstream technology support
To support our activities in genetics, gene discovery and transgenesis, Biogemma has a genomics and bioinformatics upstream technology support. This team provides high throughput technologies like transcriptome analysis, sequence capture and next generation sequencing tools for targeted genome sequencing as well as the computing power to assemble all the data produced and project them on the genome sequences of the different species.
All this data is presented in species specific portals constructed around proprietary genome assemblies for wheat, sunflower and oilseed rape and the public sequence for maize.