The OakLabs GmbH receives High-Tech Gründerfonds seed funding for intelligent breeding methods

13-Feb-2012 - Germany

The development of new types of plants can be reduced by up to ten years with the reliable diagnostic DNA markers from OakLabs. With its seed investment, High-Tech Gründerfonds enables this young company to further develop its technology and to introduce it into the market.

The primary objective of plant breeding is to optimise specific traits such as resistances, crop yield or taste. „This is not always an easy task – particularly for traits, which are controlled by more than one gene“, Dr. Martina Schad, biochemist and one of the two founders of the OakLabs GmbH explains. Traits, which are only determined by one gene, can usually be reliably predicted with today’s DNA markers. In the case of complex traits such as crop yield or taste however, the prognosis does not provide sufficient reliability to be economically useful in breeding. „We are bridging this gap. OakLabs develops reliable diagnostic DNA markers for complex traits“, Dr. Schad states. The analysis of these markers allows for the prognosis of the traits at an early stage of development. „With the help of our technology, the offspring can be purposefully selected in regard to complex traits at a much earlier stage. In doing so, the developmental period for a new type of plant with improved quality characteristics is reduced by up to ten years.“

The founders combine in-depth knowledge in molecular biology with modern mathematics for their intelligent method. „We combine an innovative lab procedure, which is based on DNA microarrays, with dedicated algorithms“, Dr. Jim Kallarackal, theoretical quantum physicist and co-founder, explains. „We are using the investment High-Tech Gründerfonds made to develop our technology to market maturity and will launch it on the market in the summer of 2012.“

Kay Balster, investment manager at High-Tech Gründerfonds, explains the reasons for High-Tech Gründerfonds’ investment: „Although there are several competitors in the market, the technology developed by OakLabs convinced us. So far, it is not possible for the competitors to analyse a large number of DNA markers in a small amount of samples cost-effectively using the existing methods. However, the large number of DNA markers is imperative for developing reliable diagnostic DNA markers.“

In the future, more and more will be expected of domesticated plants. The agricultural area utilised for farming, which continues to decrease in size, as well as the increasing demand for foodstuffs calls for highly productive plants. „Plant breeding is a research-driven field with a large potential for growth. The market volume for OakLabs’ offer convinced us“, Balster states in conclusion for the decision to invest.

The OakLabs GmbH will make its technology available to animal and plant breeding clients as well as to research institutes in the autumn of 2012.

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