MGI recently struck a three-year collaborative deal with St. Louis-based agribusiness giant Monsanto to apply MGI's technology to agriculture. The patented technology, known as a protein optimization platform, assembles and screens proteins that have promising agricultural traits.
The deal marks a huge step forward for MGI, a company that has been growing for the past four years with the help of Boston University's Technology Development Fund (TDF, formerly the Community Technology Fund). According to Terence Brennan, who heads up life science investing for the fund, TDF led the last round of financing for MGI in May 2004.
"It can take five or more years to move a company like MGI from seed to full-fledged company," says Brennan. "The rough economic patch we've recently weathered has made fund-raising difficult. But we've remained innovative in how and where we look for support to grow our companies. This collaboration between Monsanto and MGI reflects one success from that sort of innovative approach."
MGI co-founders, Kevin Jarrell, a former BU faculty member, and Temple Smith, a professor of biomedical engineering in BU's College of Engineering, developed the company's technology.
Fundamentally a system for building and modifying genes by selecting and linking together segments of DNA, MGI's high-throughput gene-engineering platform cuts the time needed to identify useful protein products. The technology provides a big advantage to researchers who seek to discover genes that help produce new crops, drugs, or other products.
"We are very pleased to have established a strong collaborative relationship with Monsanto," say Jarrell, who is president and chief scientific officer of MGI. "We feel this relationship validates our technology, demonstrating its utility as a tool for creating valuable new bioengineered products."
The Technology Development Fund, the oldest university-affiliated venture capital firm in the nation, invests in early-stage technology and life science companies and builds new companies around promising technologies developed by researchers at Boston University or Boston University Medical Center.
Boston University, with an enrollment of more than 29,000 in its 17 schools and colleges, is the fourth-largest independent university in the nation.