World-leading research in plant breeding made accessible in new company
Mariette Andersson and her colleagues are world leaders in their area of research. Since 2014, the research group has successfully developed the new Nobel Prize-winning CRISPR technology into a powerful tool for plant breeding. Mariette, who is also CEO of the newly started company SolEdits AB, hopes that more people will now have access to the new efficient technology. SLU Holding has invested in the company, which it believes can contribute to a revolutionary transformation of future plant breeding.
Excellence in strong team building
Mariette Andersson, researcher in the Department of Plant Breeding at SLU in Alnarp, sees being SolEdit's CEO as a great honour. It was not part of the plan, rather it was something that just came about. On the other hand, what was included in the plan and which Mariette believes is crucial going forward, both for the newly formed company and the research group's cutting-edge expertise, is the successful research team's unique collaboration.
- Working in a research team is not a ‘one-man show’, but rather a team effort. Retaining competence and enthusiasm in a research group is extremely important and often crucial for being able to move forwards. I have the privilege of working in an extremely skilled research group with a high level of technical knowledge. All of the research team are brilliant researchers and have all chosen to invest 20 percent of their time in SolEdit. 80 percent of the time, our focus remains on research within SLU.
Crucial for major innovations
Taking research further and making it useful in society is a strong driving force for Mariette. But as she sees it, both basic research and applied research are required in order to succeed with major innovations.
- For me, they are two parts of a larger whole. Taking research further is as obvious to me as it is a natural part of the university's activities. I spent several years working in industry before I started my research at SLU so for me it is just as natural to also collaborate with other actors outside of academia.
Powerful tool for a global challenge
The fact that the research group at SLU Alnarp with the help of CRISPR technology has developed a new powerful tool for potatoes is a breakthrough and an important step in the work on the global challenges and sustainability goals our society is facing, says Mariette.
- We have our sights set quite far ahead in the future. In our research, we need to work with the properties of plants that may become especially important in 20 years time or even later, given the challenges we are facing. We already know that the use of chemicals needs to be reduced and that we need to adapt our crops to ongoing climate change. With the new tool, we now have access to a technology for adding valuable quality properties that make plants or plant products more healthy and durable, better resistant to plant diseases and better able to withstand longer periods of drought or moisture, while at the same time retaining the properties we want the plant to have, such as a good taste and good yield.
The research group has produced a starch potato with a specially designed starch quality. The new potato starch, unlike native starch, will have a natural storage stability in products, and will replace chemically modified starch in many food products.
The company provides access to new technology and the opportunity for continued research
For Mariette and the research group, it is important to give more access to the powerful and effective tool that has been developed. Through the company SolEdits there is now the possibility for more people to access the technology.
- The technology is ready to contribute to the development work of several actors. We are really looking forward to that. As researchers, we are also ready to take the next step in our research work. Our goal is to continue to be at the forefront when it comes to precision and efficiency in plant breeding, in particular in adding different properties to plants and developing numerous variety candidates.
Despite a short take-off, SolEdits has already attracted two customers and the company is currently working on three different projects. The aim going forward is to continue to grow and to be established in the market with a good customer base in five years.
SLU Holding – sounding board and advisor
In the work with starting the company, SLU Holding has been a natural partner.
- We do not have the knowledge needed to start a company. SLU Holding has acted as a sounding board and support, both in practical terms and as an important interlocutor, making many interesting contributions. The fact that SLU Holding has invested in the company means a lot to us, says Mariette Andersson, researcher in the Department of Plant Breeding at SLU in Alnarp and CEO of SolEdits.
Here is Mariette's advice for those who want to take their research further:
- Talk to someone, such as SLU Holding who are a great partner, about your results and your idea. Could it be something to take further?
- Think about whether you want to invest energy and time in starting a company? If you lack time but believe in the idea, find someone else who is ready and can get started with the work.
- Connect with people who have the skills that you lack.