BEAVERTON, Ore., March 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Epitope, Inc. (Nasdaq: EPTO) today announced that it has entered into a three-year agreement with The Salk Institute for Biological Studies which provides its Agritope agricultural biotechnology group access to genetic technology in plants. The agreement will allow Agritope to evaluate each of five different proprietary genes that have the potential to confer disease resistance, enhanced yield, controlled flowering and enhanced gene expression. The agreement gives Agritope the exclusive option to license these new technologies for application primarily to fresh fruits and vegetables. During the three year evaluation period, Agritope plans to genetically engineer prototype commercial plant varieties containing these genes and to evaluate their utility in field applications. "Agritope has made significant progress in developing improved varieties of tomatoes, melons, raspberries and strawberries through application of its patented ripening control technology. Access to the Salk genes provides an opportunity to leverage our ability to genetically engineer fruits and vegetables and thereby create a pipeline of products with additional improved characteristics," said Richard K. Bestwick, Ph.D., Chief Operating Officer of Agritope Research and Development. The Salk technology was developed by scientists at the Institute's Plant Biology Laboratory in La Jolla, California, headed by Chris Lamb, Ph.D. The genes covered by the agreement are all derived from plants. Two of the genes have demonstrated increased vegetative growth in plants. These genes could stimulate plant growth and, therefore, increase crop yield while lowering crop production costs. A third gene regulates flower initiation and development in all flowering plants. This gene has the potential to either increase or prevent flowering, thus allowing for controlling the number of flowers per plant and the seasonal timing of flower formation. The agreement also includes a gene that is responsible for broad-based disease resistance that has been characterized in collaboration between scientists at Salk and scientists at The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, Ardmore, Oklahoma. This gene could confer resistance to a range of plant pests including viruses, fungi and bacteria. The final gene involves a novel genetic element that enhances gene expression in plants. In related developments, Agritope announced that it recently was granted a second U.S. patent on its SAMase gene which is the core technology in Agritope's ethylene control program. In addition, the U.S. Patent Office also recently issued notices of allowance of two patent applications covering promoters which regulate expression of the SAMase gene. Both promoters are used in products currently under development. Epitope, Inc. is a biotechnology company that develops and markets medical diagnostic products through its Epitope Medical Products group. Its Agritope group is focused on the development and commercialization of novel agricultural products using plant genetic engineering and other modern methods. Agritope also grows, markets, sells and distributes fresh and frozen produce.
Source: EPITOPE Inc.
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