Genomics firm eyes Prairies

NRGene, a leading genomics company based in Israel, plans to open a new office in Saskatoon.

The office is expected to serve as NRGene’s North American headquarters and will support efforts to expand the company’s operations in Canada and the United States.

Kirk Westgard, the assistant deputy minister at the Saskatchewan ministry of trade and export development, described NRGene as an advanced genomics and data analytics company capable of reducing the time and cost involved in developing new crop varieties.

The company’s presence will help to boost the productivity of farmers and the province’s agriculture sector, he added.

NRGene is already well known among crop scientists.

It has worked with North American groups on a number of large genomics projects and has developed relationships with several Canadian organizations including the Crop Development Centre (CDC) and the Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) at the University of Saskatchewan, and Agriculture Canada.

Saskatchewan Trade and Export Development Minister Jeremy Harrison called the announcement good news for Saskatchewan.

“NRGene will be a great fit for Saskatchewan’s agricultural sciences cluster, bringing good jobs and capacity that will enhance our innovative ag tech and increasing productivity in the agri-food sector,” Harrison said.

NRGene provides technologies that support plant breeding and animal husbandry research, using a proprietary genomic database and artificial intelligence-based platforms.

The company recently was involved in an international project that produced a high-quality genomic sequence for bread wheat.

That project, co-ordinated through the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC), took more than 13 years to complete and involved more than 200 scientists from 73 research institutions located in 20 countries.

The Saskatchewan government has been working with NRGene since 2015. Since then, NRGene has collaborated with a number of organizations in the province and has worked on a wide-range of crops including bread wheat, durum, canola, legumes, mustard, flax and cannabis.

In January 2020, it was announced that an international consortium, including GIFS researchers at the University of Saskatchewan and NRGene, had successfully completed the assembly of multiple canola reference genomes.

NRGene’s permanent presence in Saskatchewan is expected to provide new jobs for geneticists and data scientists at the company’s new office in Saskatoon.

Gil Ronen, NRGene’s co-founder and chief executive officer, said the company was pleased to establish an office in the province.

“With the world class agricultural research cluster in Saskatoon, the burgeoning ag tech sector, and such a strong history of primary production, we see in Canada a natural location for NRGene to expand its operations,” Ronen said.

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