Professor Brian Atwell
A technology 10 years in the making is now set to help tens of millions of people, with the world’s largest chemical company licencing the rights to a world-changing Macquarie University discovery.
Every day, the community of researchers at Macquarie University is working on innovations that could potentially improve human welfare and protect our environment. But how do these technologies progress from an academic hunch all the way to their application in the world?
Enter Macquarie University’s Commercialisation and Innovation team. Their role is to identify and commercialise new technologies developed by our researchers so that business, industry and the community can benefit.
Over a 10-year period, Professor Brian Atwell of the Department of Biological Sciences has worked with former Macquarie PhD student and post-doc, Dr Andrew Scafaro, to isolate a gene from a wild Australian rice that renders plants tolerant to very hot days beyond the mid-30s (which is about three degrees hotter than the optimum for commercial cereal crops). With conservative estimates predicting an average increase in the Earth’s temperature of at least two degrees over the next century, major grain shortages are expected. This innovation will help the world sustain wheat yields through heat waves and general global warming.
The technology was developed in a team involving international collaborations and supported by colleagues at Bayer CropScience in Belgium. The recent transfer of agreements to the German company BASF – the largest chemical producer in the world – has culminated in a mutual licence agreement with Macquarie University to bring a heat resistant wheat crop to market.
“We’ve spent the last two years negotiating the license for this technology,” notes Anna Grocholsky, Macquarie University’s Director of Commercialisation and Innovation. “Research started with Bayer. Bayer acquired Monsanto and then Bayer CropScience’s wheat business was acquired by BASF.
“Macquarie University has such a strong record for innovation and it’s immensely satisfying to be able to help people like Brian and Andrew translate their incredible efforts into solutions with truly global potential.
“This deal with BASF represents a fantastic team effort from Brian and Andrew, Legal and the Commercialisation and Innovation team.”
With BASF having licensed the rights for wheat, Anna’s team are also working with Professor Atwell and Dr Scafaro to license the technology in other crops and grains, expanding its potential to secure a staple food source for many millions of people.
You can read more about this groundbreaking work in The Lighthouse. For information on this technology, or other new technologies being developed at Macquarie, contact Anna on +61 437 463 317.