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Illinois firm invests in bio company

By MATTHEW D. ERNST
Missouri Correspondent

ST. LOUIS, Mo. — NewLeaf Symbiotics, Inc., formerly known as TrophoMax, LLC, announced it received $7 million in funding to continue commercializing a family of bacteria beneficial to plants and plant seeds, including soybeans.

“We believe that the scientific advances reported by NewLeaf Symbiotics make this the most compelling opportunity in the burgeoning biocontrols market today,” said Jason Wrone, partner at Open Prairie Ventures.

Based in Effingham, Ill., Open Prairie Ventures is one of three firms announced in this round of funding. Others include Rockport Capital, of Boston, Mass., and Menlo Park, Calif.; and Pangaea Ventures of Vancouver, British Columbia. Several individuals were also involved in funding the $7 million investment.

The funding will further NewLeaf Symbiotics’ field trials into the application of Pink Pigmented Facultative Methylatrophs (PPFMs). PPFMs, naturally occurring bacteria found on plants worldwide, live off methanol produced during plant metabolism.

“NewLeaf Symbiotics patented technologies hold real promise for a natural biological series of amendments that will find widespread use in corn and soybean farming,” said Tom Laurita, president and CEO of NewLeaf Symbiotics.

Once thought harmful to plants, PPFMs have been found to secrete nutrients actually essential to the plant. Applying additional PPFMs to plant seeds has improved seed germination and provided other plant benefits.

Chemically treated seeds have long been available to crop producers, but biobased seed coatings are newer. The original discovery of PPFM benefits, which resulted in patents for adding PPFMs to seeds, was uncovered by collaborating scientists at Salisbury University (University of Maryland system) and the University of Missouri.

Mark Holland, the Salisbury professor involved in the original research, is listed as a member of the NewLeaf Symbiotics Advisory Board.

NewLeaf Symbiotics is based at The Bio-Research & Development Growth (BRDG) Park at the Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis. “BRDG Park’s vital resources available for our tenants extends outside of world-class wet labs and office space,” said Mark Gorski, business development officer, BRDG Park.
2/7/2013