22 July 1998
Novartis steps up commitment
to agricultural genetics

NOVARTIS has announced plans for a $600 million (£365m) R&D programme in plant genomics, based around a new research centre in San Diego, California.

Agricultural genomics is the study of the location and function of groups of genes within crops, and the pests that attack them, with the aim of increasing crop productivity and quality.

The investment, one of the largest in the field, follows the Swiss companys decision in April to set up another research institute in San Diego for pharmaceuticals. The two institutes will be built side-by-side to enable the company to pool certain resources.

Dr Steve Briggs, formerly an executive of Pioneer Hi-Bred, a US seed company, will head 180 researchers at the new plant genomics institute. He hopes the centre will spend up to $200m of the 10-year $600m investment within the first two years.

Critics are concerned that the seeding of farmland with transgenic food crops could spread genetic pollution and harm the biosphere.

  • Financial Times 22/07/98 page 29