Tag Archives: Hudson River Biotechnology

Hudson River Biotechnology Partners Up To Optimize Plant Breeding With CRISPR


Hudson River Biotechnology (HRB), a Wageningen-based agricultural biotechnology company, and Computomics, a Tübingen-based bioinformatics company, announced to start offering an end-to-end solution using CRISPR-based gene editing for novel plant trait development.

This partnership combines Computomics’ expertise in accurate and precise machine learning-based identification of novel gene editing targets without off-target effects, and Hudson River Biotechnology’s CRISPR gene editing workflow, which is foreign-DNA-free. The collaboration between Computomics and Hudson River Biotechnology allows for a smooth handover from identification of disruptive gene editing targets to a precision gene editing workflow to deliver new plants to market rapidly.

Develering new crop varieties with desired traits

The joint solution, AccelATrait™, uses tailormade machine learning and CRISPR gene editing technologies to deliver new crop varieties with desired traits. Accel-A-Trait™ covers the entire workflow from experimental design to plant regeneration. It helps plant breeders develop new business based on novel traits and decreases time to market by 3-4 times.

In this partnership, Computomics is responsible for detecting, locating, and identifying novel causal targets using the latest machine learning technology. Hudson River Biotechnology performs the targeted editing using their rapid and validated CRISPR workflow. This workflow allows HRB to address recalcitrant species and offers benefits through transgene-free editing and single cell regeneration.

Crop CRISPR Startup Hudson River Biotechnology Raises €5M Series A Funding

Perfect symbiosis

Computomics and Hudson River Biotechnology complement each other perfectly in this partnership,” says Dr. Sebastian J Schultheiss, Managing Director of Computomics. “We are working together to help plant breeders develop new varieties with improved characteristics in a shorter time and with less costs.”

Rudi Ariaans, CEO of Hudson River Biotechnology, adds: “We see a clear benefit to this partnership, as many of our clients would like to access both the best in class bioinformatics capabilities and the best in transgene free CRISPR protocols to decrease the time to market for new crop varieties. AccelATrait brings these two together, allowing us to really accelerate molecular breeding for our clients. We look forward to being challenged to apply AccelATrait to previously unfeasible breeding projects, such as targeting polyploids and disruptive traits that can make a real difference.”


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Crop CRISPR Startup Hudson River Biotechnology Raises €5M Series A Funding

The Dutch agricultural biotech company Hudson River Biotechnology (HRB), a StartLife alumnus, has  raised 5 million euro in Series A funding. The company focuses on CRISPR-based genome editing in plants. The raised investment – which consists 50% of non-dilutive funding- will be used to further develop HBR’s nanotech offering and explore market opportunities, as well as scaling up its core crop-breeding business.

Hudson River Biotechnology was launched in 2015 by two founders who meet each other at the Hudson River in New York City, hence the company name. In 2017 they decided to work specifically on the application of CRISPR in plant breeding, which lead to a seed round in 2018. Since then, they have been successful in addressing the two main bottlenecks in applying CRISPR to plants: knowing where to make edits, delivering the CRISPR ‘machinery’ inside the plant, and plant regeneration – getting it from the lab in an in vitro situation back to a real plant that can go in a field or greenhouse,” as co-founder and chief scientific officer Ferdinand Los mentioned in an interview with Agfundernews about the founding round.

Highly scalable nanotechnology

It’s that “delivery” element which has led HRB into exploring its latest new business case. The company has been working on nanoparticles that allow it to bypass plant cell walls in order to introduce CRISPR enzymes – but now it’s eyeing potential alternative uses for this teeny-tiny technology. Though nanotechnology is very expensive, HBR has found a way to make it highly scalable.

Unique delivery

“The uniqueness is in the delivery, and there are two directions we can take this in. One is that we can encapsulate existing compounds or molecules to improve bioavailability and reduce the amounts [of agrochemicals] you need to spray on fields. The other is that we enable the delivery of new types [of inputs] – for example, biological agents”,  says co-founder Ferdinand Los.

HBR takes a non-transgenic approach to CRISPR. They do not add any DNA from other species into the plants it is working on. This allows the company to operate within EU regulatory guidelines with regards to genetically modified organisms, explains Ferdinand in an interview with Agfundernews.

Founder Story: Hudson River Biotechnology


Founder Story Hudson River Biotechnology | CRISPR-Cas9 to boost natural ingredients


Hudson River Biotechnology and Gen-X deliver Proof of Concept for SuRE technology in plants

HRB logo HD_2526x1785

Wageningen, 30 October 2018 – Two Netherlands-based startups take major technological step in precision plant breeding, by showing that the SuRE technology can be successfully applied to the tomato genome, delivering a new genetic target identification platform for use in agricultural crops.

SuRE, ‘Survey of Regulatory Elements’, is a highly novel platform technology that allows unbiased genome-wide identification of gene regulatory elements that can serve as targets for mutagenesis. Through SuRE, we can identify unique and proprietary (patentable) targets that we can modify to yield new traits. SuRE outperforms competing technologies by a wide margin and has valuable agricultural applications, such as the identification of novel, unique and sophisticated targets for molecular plant breeding through targeted mutagenesis approaches.

The technology is patent pending and was invented by Gen-X’s founder and published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, in 2017. HRB has partnered with Gen-X to translate the SuRE platform technology from validated pharmaceutical applications to new agricultural applications. These include the identification of novel, unique and sophisticated targets for molecular plant breeding through targeted mutagenesis approaches (TILLING and other gene-editing methods like CRISPR), as well as of novel, strong endogenous promoters to drive cis- and transgene expression.

Proof of Concept for SuRE in plants

With SuRE, a plasmid library is constructed, consisting of random genomic fragments inserted upstream of unique 20-bp barcodes. The library is transfected into protoplasts, and barcode expression is quantified by high-throughput sequencing. Over 50-fold genome coverage can be reached, allowing robust mapping of autonomous promoter and enhancer activity to a genome.

In a project supported by Syngenta, Vegetable Seeds from BASF (Nunhems Netherlands), HZPC Research BV and Genetwister, HRB and Gen-X were able to show that the SuRE platform technology can be successfully applied to the tomato genome. The figure above shows that the SuRE library vector can be used to assay transcriptional regulation in tomato, and that when tomato genomic DNA is analyzed, a clear peak pattern is observed, representing gene regulatory elements.

“We are excited about achieving this major technical milestone. The combination of theproprietary SuRE and CRISPR technology platforms offers a powerful and unique way for plant breeders to improve crop yields and enable more sustainable food production” says Rudi Ariaans, CEO and co-founder of HRB.

About Hudson River Biotechnology 
Hudson River Biotechnology is a highly innovative agricultural biotech company located in Wageningen (Netherlands) focused on improving crop productivity and quality, addressing the world’s increasing demand for food and natural ingredients. We do this by genetically optimizing crops to increase yields, improve disease resistance & nutritional value.

Gen-X is a biotechnology company located in Amsterdam that provides functional genome annotation on an unprecedented scale using the SuRE technology (www.gen-x.bio). We enable the identification of relevant regulatory DNA elements and provide functional annotation of non-coding sequence variants.

Hudson River Biotechnology raises seed investment round

HRB_plant and scientist

Wageningen-based CRISPR startup accelerates growth

Hudson River Biotechnology (HRB) has raised a strategic investment round, fully funding its current business plan and bringing in a team of experienced investors and entrepreneurs.

HRB is a young and highly innovative agricultural biotech company located in Wageningen (Netherlands). HRB applies novel breeding techniques such as CRISPR to develop new plant traits, and has exclusive access to a novel genetic target identification platform, called SuRE (licensed from Amsterdam-based partner company Gen-X). Their internal R&D pipeline is focused on developing innovative, new traits for plants that are used to produce high-value compounds for the pharma, cosmetics and food industries. In addition, HRB offers their molecular breeding and target identification expertise as an end-to-end service solution for accelerating breeding efforts to plant breeders, seed companies and natural ingredient producers of all sizes. Combined, these efforts ultimately contribute to solving global food challenges such as the need for improved nutritional value or reduced pesticide use.

Founded in 2015, HRB combines the business acumen and market knowledge of Rudi Ariaans with the scientific expertise in genetics and consulting experience of Dr. Ferdinand Los. HRB remains one of the few independent players in the agricultural industry – no shares are owned by seed companies – and targets the multi billion-euro agtech market.

“The combination of the proprietary SuRE and CRISPR technology platforms offers a powerful and unique way to improve crop yields and enable more sustainable food production. Both technologies are easy to integrate into existing breeding programs and the targeted approach significantly reduces the time, and therefore costs, needed to develop innovative traits” says Rudi Ariaans, CEO and co-founder of HRB.

Ferdinand Los, CSO and HRB co-founder adds, “SuRE is unique in that it can provide gene regulatory sites in a genome-wide fashion, allowing us to modify gene expression levels via CRISPR—turning the “volume button” of the genes, rather than shutting them off completely. This is highly desirable, as completely removing genes, the more common way CRISPR is used, can often be damaging to the plant. Also, this approach can allow us to increase gene activity without resorting to transgenic methods”.

“We are excited to bring on board such an experienced investor group that has a proven track record of successfully scaling up technology companies” says Ariaans. HRB will use the investment to significantly accelerate growth, by growing the team and expanding R&D activities. The agricultural industry is changing rapidly; being able to offer both a target identification and target transformation service will ensure a leading position for HRB in the fast moving CRISPR environment. “With this new investment, we will create a world-class agtech innovation factory”.

Founder Story Hudson River Biotechnology | CRISPR-Cas9 to boost natural ingredients

seed investment round startlife startup rudi ariaans ferdinand los

StartLife nurtures an enormous network of startups with inspiring founders. These startups want to share their tips & tricks with other entrepreneurs. This Founder Story is about Rudi Ariaans and Ferdinand Los founders of Hudson River Biotechnology (HRB). The duo noticed the current need for more profitable crops producing natural ingredients. HRB helps companies to improve yields and lower the costs of high-value compounds.

‘StartLife opened the door for us to the “kitchen” of Wageningen. We were able to meet the right people much faster’, Rudi Ariaans, one of the founders of Hudson River Biotechnology

Solution for the market
Rudi and Ferdinand met in New York in 2011. The company was named after the famous river that flows through the city. Rudi has a background in international business. Back then he worked as a commercial manager at DSM in New York. Ferdinand has a background in science, with a PhD in biology from the University of California at San Diego and consulting experience from the Dutch company ttopstart.

Rudi and Ferdinand talked a lot about their experiences and challenges in the ingredient business. The sector is dealing with a paradox. On the one hand, there is a need for more natural food ingredients instead of the synthetic ones. But, those natural ingredients from plants are difficult to produce and thus far more expensive. Novel breeding techniques, driven by recent advances in genetics, have made improving such specialty crops economically viable. For example, Rudi and Ferdinand use modern breeding techniques such as CRISPR-Cas9 to increase plant productivity and thus making natural ingredients cheaper. HRB’s first business case was lutein extracted from marigold flowers.

As a route to fund their first project, Rudi and Ferdinand applied for funding under the EU’s Horizon2020 program. They managed to beat the competition and got their first application immediately approved. This European subsidy opened many doors and provided the opportunity to partner with Wageningen University & Research. HRB still rents lab space on the campus for their genetic research in plants.

Not everything went smoothly from the beginning. Rudi and Ferdinand started their lutein research in 2015. They planned for 6-12 months of research, but a stroke of bad luck turned this into two years and additional spending. At that time Rudi and Ferdinand both had full-time jobs, so they had to work day and night. If they could give a piece of advice to other entrepreneurs it would be: “stay optimistic, be persistent, work on the things you are passionate about, and make sure to have a private financial plan!”.

Hudson River Biotechnology USPs
Hudson River Biotechnology focuses on ingredients that are hard to increase through the traditional breeding methods, because of the lack of simple, visual markers” says Ferdinand. “Our focus is on specialty crops and not on mass crops like corn”, adds Rudi, carving out a clear niche for HRB. HRB is driven by customer-demand, as opposed to most university spin-offs, which are technology-driven. “We are creating an innovation factory in specialty crops”, says Rudi.

The value of StartLife
Rudi and Ferdinand are very thankful for the help they received from StartLife and the Regional Development Agency; OostNV. “StartLife opened the door for us to the “kitchen” of Wageningen. We were able to meet the right people much faster’’, says Rudi. “To the outside world, our connection shows that we are StartLife-proof”, both founders agree.

Flourishing future?
Now, Hudson River Biotechnology is partnering up with international companies in Asia, the Americas and Europe. The next ingredient that will be developed is lavender oil, an important substance for the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries. Rudi and Ferdinand, are talking with several investors and they are open to meet other parties as well. Although the company is in a pre-market phase, they are expanding and adding people to their R&D team. Looking ahead, Rudi and Ferdinand expect to develop many more crops.

hudson river biotechnology rudi ariaans ferdinand los startup startlife