Towards personalized agriculture: what chemical genomics can bring to plant biotechnology

Stokes ME, McCourt P

Front Plant Sci 2014;5:344

PMID: 25183965


In contrast to the dominant drug paradigm in which compounds were developed to “fit all,” new models focused around personalized medicine are appearing in which treatments are developed and customized for individual patients. The agricultural biotechnology industry (Ag-biotech) should also think about these new personalized models. For example, most common herbicides are generic in action, which led to the development of genetically modified crops to add specificity. The ease and accessibility of modern genomic analysis, when wedded to accessible large chemical space, should facilitate the discovery of chemicals that are more selective in their utility. Is it possible to develop species-selective herbicides and growth regulators? More generally put, is plant research at a stage where chemicals can be developed that streamline plant development and growth to various environments? We believe the advent of chemical genomics now opens up these and other opportunities to “personalize” agriculture. Furthermore, chemical genomics does not necessarily require genetically tractable plant models, which in principle should allow quick translation to practical applications. For this to happen, however, will require collaboration between the Ag-biotech industry and academic labs for early stage research and development, a situation that has proven very fruitful for Big Pharma.