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AgTech Accelerator Launches First Startup with $10M Funding

By Allan Maurer, NCBiotech Writer

The Research Triangle-based AgTech Accelerator launched its first startup, Boragen Inc. with a $10 million Series A financing Thursday.

Boragen is developing a novel boron-based synthetic chemistry platform, initially focusing on next-generation fungicides intended to mitigate pest resistance and allow for more-sustainable farming methods.

John Dombrowsky -- Boragen photo

“Boragen is a tremendous first investment,” said John Dombrosky, CEO of AgTech Accelerator, who will also serve as CEO of Boragen. “Boragen’s platforms will meet a global need for new fungicide options that will help farmers protect against resistance, while upholding standard stewardship practices of rotating chemistries with different modes of action.”

Fungicides play a crucial role in ensuring global agricultural production needs are met. But some disease-causing fungi are susceptible to resistance to fungicides with a single site mode of action.

Boragen is based on technology with a novel mode of action, licensed from The Pennsylvania State University, that helps address this challenge. Developed by researchers Stephen Benkovic, Ph.D., and C. Tony Liu, Ph.D., the Boragen technology aims to mitigate fungicide resistance and reduce the overall amount of chemicals applied per acre.

The investors participating in Boragen’s financing include AgTech Accelerator’s investment syndicate partners: Alexandria Venture Investments, ARCH Venture Partners, Bayer, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Elanco Animal Health, Flagship Pioneering, Hatteras Venture Partners, Mountain Group Capital, Pappas Capital and Syngenta Ventures.

“This investment powerfully demonstrates the flexibility of the AgTech Accelerator model,” Dombrosky said in a statement “When we see a really exciting technology, such as Boragen’s, our individual investors are able to bring additional capital into the deal, immediately increasing the speed and scope of milestones and plans.”

Architect's rendering indicates what a new AgTech Accelerator facility might look like if added to the former Hamner Institutes property in RTP. -- AgTech Accelerator photo

Boragen’s office and lab headquarters will be located within AgTech Accelerator’s facilities in Alexandria’s RTP campus at 7020 Kit Creek Road.

The AgTech Accelerator founders have made preliminary plans to move into new lab, office and greenhouse facilities on the former Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences campus that was purchased by Alexandria Real Estate.

Boragen’s founders include scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Penn State and Stanford universities and The Scripps Research Institute.

 Boragen’s board of directors is comprised of synthetic chemists and experts in fungal genetics and molecular biology, as well as seasoned entrepreneurs with deep management experience:

  • Benkovic, the Evan Pugh University professor and Eberly chair in chemistry at Penn State, was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Obama
  • Kristina Burow, managing director of ARCH Venture Partners
  • Joel Marcus, co-founder and chairman of tye AgTech Accelerator, is also chairman, CEO and founder of Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. and Alexandria Venture Investments
  • Paul Schimmel, Ph.D., is a professor in the department of cell and molecular biology at The Scripps Research Institute and MacArthur professor emeritus at MIT

AgTech Accelerator was established in 2016 in with $20 million in funding. It is a unique startup accelerator focused on discovering and developing emerging agricultural technology companies.

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