The multi-million dollar partnership in gene discovery and molecular breeding for forest trees between ArborGen and Scion NZ has been extended.
The two companies started their partnership arrangement in 2006. They successfully identifyied gene-traits associated with wood quality improvements in pine trees. The research conducted at ArborGen discovered more than one hundred new genes for testing in Loblolly Pine.
The companies expect the partnership to focus on developing and applying the valuable traits of trees over the next three years. The most valuable traits they hope to determine are improved growth and superior wood quality, for applications that suit biomaterials and traditional commercial forestry.
President and CEO of ArborGen, Barbara Wells, Ph.D., noted that “Our ongoing partnership with Scion brings together two leaders in forestry biotechnology, creating exciting synergies for breakthrough discoveries and product development.”
Scion’s CEO, Tom Richardson, Ph.D., looking to the future, said he expects major changes in plantation forests, as their work progresses. Richardson foresees not only traditional forest products, but also trees being grown for a wider range of purposes. The traditional forest products include bioenergy, manufacturing and other bio-based products.
Already, the two companies have developed a pipeline of lead candidates and they expect the rate of new discoveries to accelerate. Speaking about the partnership with ArborGen, Richardson said it has, “already led to discoveries for enhancing growth and wood characteristics in trees. The groundwork done to date provides a solid foundation for this partnership to deliver value to forestry in the future.”
The collaboration between the two companies has significant potential for the future of forestry.
Elspeth MacRae, Ph.D., group manager of bioproduct development at Scion and Maud Hinchee, Ph.D., chief science officer at ArborGen said that even small incremental improvements in growth or wood density across the millions of trees planted annually in the United States and New Zealand will improve per acre productivity. These enhancements alone are expected to relieve pressure on native forests at the same time as satisfying the increasing demand for wood, fiber and energy.
ArborGen Australasia’s general manager, Greg Mann, said “ArborGen is dedicated to improving tree performance and the productivity of purpose grown trees for a growing global economy. From bioenergy to pulp and paper, packaging, and lumber, trees produce through this partnership will produce more of what we need far more efficiently than we can do currently.”
The major problems for forests include the never-ending increase in demand, plus issues that reduce supply, such as pollution, climate change, disease and insects. ArborGen said biotechnology has the potential to solve many of the problems facing forests around the world.