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CZI-backed project brings CRISPR to ag tech

Megan Hernbroth
Aug 19, 2022
Illustration of harvester cutting a Helix DNA shape into farm land
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

An ongoing ag-tech project funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative just embarked on one of its first case studies, a proposal led by rice expert Pam Ronald of UC Davis.

Why it matters: The rice study is a reminder that CZI is among the largest philanthropist organizations actively investing in climate science.

  • CZI is the philanthropic group of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan. It has awarded nearly $3 billion in grants and invested roughly $150 million since it was founded in 2015.

What's happening: The Innovative Genomics Institute in Berkeley received $11 million in grants from CZI to research whether the CRISPR genomics technology could benefit crops that are at risk of pests or drought intolerance in a changing climate.

  • The grant does not need to be repaid and can fund more than a year's worth of work.

Of note: Brad Ringeisen, the executive director of IGI, tells Axios he wants to take the research a step further to change the molecular composition of crops and soil to permanently reduce the agriculture sector's overall emissions.

  • The UC Davis study is mainly focused on increasing flood tolerance for rice crops using enhanced photosynthesis processes.

The bottom line: CZI's available funds were estimated to be more than $5 billion in 2018, the most recent estimate available.

  • A funding pot of that size could fundamentally reshape climate technology and the companies focused on the space.
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