Calyxt raised high expectations
29 September 2022 / Calyxt was the first company to bring seeds derived from New Genetic Engineering to the US market. In 2019, the company started selling seeds for growing a soybean that had been genetically engineered in its oil content with gene scissors, and was supposedly suitable for the production of particularly healthy food. However, the soybean failed to produce the desired yields for farmers, and in 2020 Calyxt exited this line of business due to unprofitability. Sales and the value of Calyxt stock fell dramatically as a result.
Calyxt, whose majority shareholder is Cellectis, was one of the first companies to use New Genetic Engineering in plant breeding. This involved the use of TALENs (transcription activator-like effector nucleases), a precursor of the gene scissors, CRISPR, which can be used to bring about targeted changes in the genetic material. Cellectis and Calyxt also filed numerous patents in this particular field.
The company aggressively promoted the benefits of New Genetic Engineering to investors. A presentation in 2018 held out the prospect of bringing, e.g. healthier and more mildew-resistant wheat to market. Other breeding targets, such as increased drought tolerance in soybeans, were also reportedly in the pipeline. It was emphasized that New Genetic Engineering could speed up plant breeding significantly.
In 2018, Calyxt hailed New Genetic Engineering as a 'disruptive' technology that would revolutionize breeding and agriculture. However, the word disruptive has now probably acquired a very different meaning for the company: the share price has dropped to just a few US cents and its continued economic survival appears to be in doubt.
Testbiotech had already pointed out in recent consultations with the EU Commission that the alleged benefits of New Genetic Engineering need to be independently verified in a technology assessment. Developments at Calyxt show that many expectations and promises in this context are proving to be unsustainable.
Christoph Then, Tel + 49 (0)151 54638040, firstname.lastname@example.org