TechAccel initiates protein engineering project with UC Davis to improve wheat yield

TechAccel LLC
Farm Forum

KANSAS CITY, Mo, and DAVIS, Calif. – On Feb. 22, TechAccel LLC, a Kansas City-based technology and venture development company, announced it has initiated a protein engineering research project with The Siegel Lab in the Genome Center of the University of California, Davis.

The project will determine if specific mutations in a wheat enzyme can produce plants capable of thriving in warmer temperatures.

“The Siegel Lab, with its advanced enzyme design and engineering capabilities, is the perfect partner for this important research,” said Brad Fabbri, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer of TechAccel. “If we are successful in demonstrating the enzyme’s effectiveness, the next step will be to employ gene editing to produce a non-GMO wheat with significantly improved yield.”

It has been recently reported that global warming is already slowing wheat yield gains, with global wheat production expected to fall by six percent for each degree Celsius increase. The optimum temperature for wheat during the development of the grain is about 15-20 degrees Celsius (59-68 degrees Fahrenheit), but yield diminishes as temperatures increase–a big problem as growing seasons become warmer as a consequence of climate change.

At The Siegel Lab, researchers will use advanced techniques in protein structure prediction to construct and test a handful of enzyme variants that TechAccel has been studying. The ultimate goal is to create a “recipe” for enzyme improvement to produce wheat that can thrive in warmer growing seasons–up to 10 degrees Celsius above the ideal range.

“We are excited to bring the cutting-edge technologies of computational protein design and synthetic biology to tackle this important problem,” said Justin B. Siegel, Ph.D., faculty director of the Innovation Institute for Food and Health, assistant professor of chemistry, biochemistry and molecular medicine at UC Davis Genome Center. “The unique combination of technologies and discoveries brought together in this endeavor by TechAccel and UC Davis has the potential to build wheat varietals that we need in a world with an ever-changing climate.”

TechAccel is a technology and venture development organization focused in agriculture, animal health and food technology. The company invests in innovative technology and funds science advancement programs to accelerate readiness for commercialization. Financial terms and additional project details were not disclosed.

TechAccel began its collaboration with UC-Davis in 2016 with its participation in the UC-Davis Venture Catalyst STAIR-Plus program, an expansion of the Venture Catalyst Science Translation and Innovative Research (STAIR) grants, which are in their fifth year of enabling the commercial translation of UC-Davis research and technologies through proof-of-concept funding. The STAIR-Plus program offers additional support to STAIR grant recipients who have successfully achieved their projected commercialization milestones and are poised for commercial impact pending completion of specific targeted activities.