Symbiota's News Update

6th Edition: 09/24/15

Dear Symbiota Team,

The purpose of this newsletter is to keep the team up to date on relevant articles in Ag, microbiome space, etc., as well as informed about any company related news.

Please feel free to send any articles / content you would like in the next edition! We also welcome and appreciate feedback. Send all content / feedback to:



Symbiota's scientific advisor, Fred Ausubel to retire, after 40 year career

Over his 40 year career, Fred has mentored more than 30 graduate students and 68 post-docs. He gives a great deal of freedom to his trainees and 4 of his former trainees have been elected to the National Academy of Science. Fred has authored over 400 research publications and has received many awards.

Fred was a mentor to Slavica, Xuecheng, Yves, and has contributed significantly to the early stage of Symbiota's development. He will be celebrating his career & achievement. If you would like more information, please e-mail Xuecheng.

Here is a link to his self-sketch about his career development.

Articles (click on the link below to be taken to the full article)

Symbiota Mention:

1) Market turbulence or not, North American investors plow into farm tech (Reuters) - Rod Nickel reports on how investments in ag technology amounted to $2.06 billion in the first half of 2015, on pace to exceed last year's record $2.36 billion. The piece mentions Symbiota raised $7.5 million from Flagship Ventures, quoting Geoffrey von Maltzahn as stating, "The potential for this space is absolutely astronomical.”


2) To help feed billions of people, scientists braved the snake-infested and croc-filled swamps of northern Australia in search of rice (California Sunday Magazine) – Lisa M. Hamilton reports on Robert Henry, a geneticist who directs global agricultural research at the University of Queensland, and his mission to find a solution to worldwide food security. The article notes, “In recent decades, an increasing number of geneticists and plant breeders have realized that crops’ wild relatives hold immense value because they have not been domesticated.”


3) Corn Gains After USDA Trims Crop Estimates (Wall Street Journal) – Jesse Newman reports that corn prices surged to a one-month high after federal forecasters trimmed their estimate for U.S. production this autumn following unfavorable weather in parts of the Midwest. The article notes that the 2015 corn crop still would rank as the third-largest in U.S. history, down 4 percent from last year’s record haul.

4) France + Russia Ban GMOs (EcoWatch) – Lorraine Chow reports that France is choosing the “opt-out” clause of the EU rule passed in March to abstain from growing GMO crops. The article highlights that as of now Scotland, Germany, Latvia and Greece are the other EU countries that have also decided to ban GMOs.

Plant Microbiome:

5) Fighting poisons with bacteria - going inside the rice microbiome (New York Times)

6) Healthy soil microbes, healthy people (The Atlantic) - The microbial community in the ground is as important as the one in our gut.

7) Is this fungus the future of farming? (MotherJones) - Reason why microbes could be the key to better agriculture.


8) Pivoting after failed Syngenta bid, Monsanto to build big data business (Reuters)


9) Genetically Modified Plants Could Eliminate Food Poisoning (Popular Science) – Steph Yin reports that scientists have announced a new strategy for combating foodborne disease by using genetically engineered plants to produce antimicrobial proteins, which can then be extracted and applied to contaminated meat and produce. The study was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

10) Food Industry Enlisted Academics in G.M.O. Lobbying War, Emails Show (New York Times) – Eric Lipton reports that the debate over bioengineered foods has escalated into a billion-dollar industry war – and now ag companies are turning to professors, researchers and scientists to back claims about GMOs. The article notes that the push has intensified as the Senate prepares to take up industry-backed legislation this fall that would ban states from adopting laws that require the disclosure of food produced with genetically modified ingredients.

Human Microbiome:

11) The human microbiome: me, myself, us (The Economist) - Looking at human beings as ecosystems that contain many collaborating and competing species could change the practice of medicine.

12) Modern medicine: Microbes maketh man (The Economist) - People are not just people. There an awful lot of microbes, too.

13) In Good Health? Thank Your 100 Trillion Bacteria (New York Times)

14) Some of My Best Friends Are Germs (New York Times)

15) Germs Are Us (NewYorker) - Bacteria make us sick. Do they also help keep us alive?

Share your knowledge!

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Have a great rest of the week