ROSEVILLE, MINN. — Calyxt, Inc. achieved a milestone in 2019 when high-oleic soybeans became the company’s first commercially available gene-edited product in the United States through the company’s TALEN technology. More milestones may come in other crops throughout the current decade. Projects in the pipeline include high-fiber wheat, hemp with a more marketable yield, cold-tolerant oat crops and pulses with improved protein profiles and flavor.
“We are really, really excited at Calyxt about the unlimited possibilities that exist with plant-based foods and what we might be able to do to help bring some of these innovations to consumers,” said Travis Frey, PhD, chief technology officer, in an Aug. 19 webinar hosted by Food Business News.
The webinar may be found here.
Research at the University of Minnesota created TALEN. Dan Voytas, PhD, a professor in the College of Biological Sciences at the university, is now Calyxt’s chief science officer. The TALEN technology makes precise alternations to the genetic code of plants. Dr. Voytas said the TALEN technology is similar to what farmers and plant breeders have done for centuries.
“Our gene-editing methods, however, are much faster and more precise than traditional breeding approaches,” Dr. Voytas said. “This allows us to make new products faster in a fraction of the time and a fraction of the cost.”
Products created through TALEN technology do not have to be labeled as bioengineered under US Department of Agriculture regulations, said Chloe Pavely, global regulatory director for Calyxt. The products are not GMO, she said.
“The products we develop are different in two essential aspects,” she said. “First, they contain no foreign DNA, and second, they could be obtained through conventional breeding. It would just take a lot longer, probably decades.”
CRISPR is another gene-editing technology. Australia has granted Calyxt a patent covering CRISPR gene editing in plants, Dr. Voytas said.
Roseville-based Calyxt has three go-to-market strategies. One involves licensing the TALEN technology to companies for use in their own development of specific traits. Another strategy involves Calyxt licensing the company’s developed traits or products to downstream partners with commercial expertise for negotiated upfront and milestone payments and potential royalties. In the third strategy, Calyxt will sell seeds to agricultural processors, including millers and crushers, or others in the relevant crop’s supply chain.
“We are really, really interested in collaboration,” Dr. Frey said.
Calyxt was founded in 2010, and an initial public offering occurred in 2017. Company stock trades on the Nasdaq.
High-oleic soybean oil containing about 80% oleic acid and up to 20% less saturated fat launched commercially in February 2019. The oil has up to three times the fry life and extended shelf life compared to commodity oils, according to Calyxt.
Calyxt expects to launch high-oleic, low-linolenic (HOLL) soybeans as early as 2023.
Calyxt is collaborating with S&W Seed Co., Longmont, Colo., on enhanced traits in alfalfa that have been shown to improve productivity, decrease input costs and improve digestibility in livestock fed the alfalfa.
Calyxt has targeted 2022 as the commercial planting year for high-fiber wheat, 2023 as the commercial planting year for hemp with marketable yield and 2026 as the commercial planting year for cold-tolerant oat crops. Dr. Frey said the oats could be a winter crop in crop rotation plans. Calyxt has targeted 2027 as the commercial planting year for pulses with improved protein profiles and flavor.