Monsanto’s Next Breakthrough May Have Been Developed for the Medical World

Monsanto announced today the creation of a new company, Preceres LLC., which hopes to apply successful drug delivery technologies originally created for medical applications towards the development of agriculture biologicals.

Mar 24, 2014 at 1:09PM

Monsanto (NYSE:MON) will be working in collaboration with the newly created Preceres LLC. Preceres is a company that looks to utilize drug delivery technologies for agricultural applications, and partnership with Monsanto will help to make the transition from medicine to agriculture much more feasible.

The tie between medicine and agriculture
Preceres was founded by two MIT researchers with backgrounds in Chemical Engineering. Both Dr. David Anderson and Dr. Arturo Vegas had focused their work at MIT to developing biomaterials for drug delivery for medical applications.

The core technology being developed by these researchers for medical applications may not be too far off from pesticide delivery applications valuable for Monsanto. The ease of the transition from medicine to agriculture may hinge on two major factors that Preceres' founders may already have under control.

The first major factor already being addressed is that of scale. Dr. Anderson's research expands beyond the creation of novel delivery molecules interesting only from the academic research point of view into development of larger scale syntheses processes that may enable the technology to better transition both to a feasible scale for medical applications as well as to the large scale necessary for utilization by Monsanto. The demonstrated ability to develop "methods allowing rapid synthesis, formulation, analysis, and biological testing of large libraries of biomaterials" for drug delivery applications should allow Preceres researchers to develop and test a variety of delivery agents to support the development of innovative biological solutions for farmers.

The second key in the process will be confirming the applicability of the processes beyond the medical setting, which will be better enabled through the cooperation of Monsanto and Preceres. According to Steve Padgette, Monsanto R&D investment strategy lead, the collaboration will enable "the potential to co-create products that are very precise and specific in how they work, which is consistent with our vision to create products that enable our customers to produce more in an environmentally sustainable way."

Environmental sustainability may mean, among other things, enabling smaller and fewer applications of pesticides, in line with Monsanto's development of their BioDirect Technology. The use of agricultural biologicals (treatments that are more biological than chemical in nature) in place of or to complement the use of traditional agricultural chemicals may help address the growing consumer disdain for foods heavily treated with chemical pesticides. Combining Monsanto's developments in agricultural biologicals with specific delivery technologies developed by Preceres will enable more precise and selective targeting of specific pests during spray applications, thus potentially reducing the broader environmental and human health impacts.

The takeaway
Combining resources from the nation's top chemical engineering school with technologies and resources already developed by the nation's dominant agricultural technology company will yield results. With technology licensed from MIT, Preceres' development of innovative biological solutions for farmers may make a perfect match with Monsanto's research and development of agricultural biologicals. When this synergistic approach yields results, both farmers and investors will benefit. 

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