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Evogene, a privately owned pioneer in plant biotechnology, and CIRAD, a French scientific organization, have signed a multi-year collaboration to develop abiotic stress-tolerant cotton, which are cotton plants resistant to adverse salinity conditions and drought.

At a later stage, Evogene may expand the project to render the plants resistant to other non-biological stressful conditions, such as temperature extremes. Evogene focuses on the improvement of crops and the production of plant-derived products. The company is unique in merging state-of-the-art predictive computational biology and molecular biology with the most advanced classical breeding technologies.

Computational biology is based on the science of using computer tools to predict biological processes, an Evogene spokesman explained. Its work involves identifying genes that can improve plant performance, mainly using powerful computer prediction processes rather than protracted, tortuous biological techniques. Many more genetic candidates can be screened that way, explains Julien Meissonnier, Evogene's business development manager.

Pure breeders do not study the genetics of their subjects, but Evogene combines the practical qualities of breeders, as its founders originate from breeding and seed companies, Meissonnier says.

CIRAD (Centre de Cooperation Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Development) studies agricultural techniques for the tropics and subtropics. The multiyear collaboration announced yesterday includes technology exchanges, screening by Evogene in high abiotic stress conditions in Israel of a broad collection of wild cotton seed lines from CIRAD, and introduction into cotton of proprietary gene constructs discovered by Evogene using its predictive computational biology capabilities.