Ex-pharmaceutical executive to head new crop input company

(Reuters) — A start-up agricultural plant health company that plans to tweak the capabilities of crops to improve their yields, has named a former pharmaceutical executive as its president.

David Perry joined Symbiota in early January after leaving Anacor Pharmaceuticals Inc., which he co-founded and ran from 2002 until last year.

Perry founded two other companies in the life sciences industry before starting Anacor, which develops products to treat infectious and inflammatory diseases.

Perry will lead Symbiota’s work in advanced agricultural seed products, specifically using microbes found naturally in plants for seed coatings to help crops resist pests and handle drought and other stress so that they can yield more.

The company, whose board members include Robert Berendes, former head of global business development at Syngenta, has spent the last two years building up its research capabilities.

It now has field trials underway on microbes that should help crops yield more with less water and fertilizer while fighting disease.

“The field trial data was so compelling,” Perry said of his decision to join Symbiota.

“We have a lot of data supporting the idea that we can have double-digit impacts on yield across multiple crops. If that holds up, it’s a real step change for agriculture.”

Other companies, including Monsanto and Syngenta, are also researching and developing microbial-based products for agriculture.

Perry would not say how quickly the company might bring a product to market, but added that development time and regulatory hurdles were low compared with pharmaceutical products and genetically modified crops.

“We’re not modifying nature in any way,” he said.

“We’re simply identifying micro-organisms that are already beneficial to the plants and applying them in high concentrations to the seed.”

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