University of Tsukuba
Sanatech Seed Co., Ltd.
First Genome Edited Tomato with Increased GABA In the World
Sanatech Seed Co., Ltd. (Chairman Tatsuo Takeshita), a start-up company from University of Tsukuba, has developed a tomato variety “Sicilian Rouge High GABA” using the CRISPR/Cas9 (Note1) genome editing technology. It is a breakthrough technology with broad applications in life sciences and its inventors received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry this year. The Sicilian Rouge High GABA tomato contains high levels of GABA (Note2) which is a functional component providing various benefits to human health, such as lowering blood pressure.
Last year, the regulatory guidelines for products developed using genome editing technology were established in Japan. Under these guidelines, products like the Sicilian Rouge High GABA tomato are not considered “GMOs” (Genetically Modified Organisms), however, engagement with the regulatory agencies prior to commercialization is requested. In accordance with these guidelines, Sanatech Seed completed consultations with the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF). Sanatech Seed is preparing to sell “Sicilian Rouge High GABA” tomato in 2021, the world’s first direct consumption genome-edited tomato.
About Sanatech Seed Co., Ltd.
Through the Cross-ministerial Strategic Innovation Promotion Program (SIP) “Technologies for Creating Next-Generation Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries”, Prof. Hiroshi Ezura and his research group (The Faculty of Life and Environmental Sciences/ Tsukuba-Plant Innovation Research Center, University of Tsukuba) has been improving plant varieties by genome editing technology which is a type of precision breeding technology.
In April 2018, Sanatech Seed Co.,Ltd. was established to commercialize genome-edited tomatoes that accumulate high amount of GABA as a venture from the University of Tsukuba. Prof. Ezura has been appointed as the Chief Technology Director.
GABA has been reported to lower blood pressure and producing relaxation effects. “Sana” in the company name means health in Latin, and we hope to make people healthier with our products.
Submitted Notification and Commercialized Sicilian Rouge High GABA
Sanatech Seed Co., Ltd. developed new tomato variety “Sicilian Rouge High GABA”. It was developed by CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing technology and has 5-6 times higher GABA content.
Prior to the notification of commercialization intent, Sanatech Seed consulted with MHLW according to their handling procedures. Sanatech Seed has also consulted with MAFF to address any concerns about potential impact of the product on biological diversity. The notification to MHLW and the information letter to MAFF were submitted.
The main purpose of our product is for food, but there is a possibility of using as feed in the processing of off-specification fruit, so we have also submitted the notification for feed use after prior consultation with Animal Products Safety Division, MAFF.
Sales Planning and Labeling
First, we will provide seedlings to home gardeners; we will start providing them starting in April 2021; orders can be placed online.
In order to distribute the fruit to the market like conventional tomato varieties, we need to start mass seed production and selling them to growers. That needs time and space for growers, so it will be some time before consumers see fruit products in the supermarket.
Sanatech Seed indicates products that were developed by using genome-editing technology. The seedlings and the fruits distributed in the future will be labeled with a mark that includes the words “This product was developed by genome editing technology” and “The notification was submitted to MHLW & MAFF.” (as shown on the below). The products will also be marked with a QR code that will take consumers to the Sanatech Seed’s website where consumers can find details information about the product.
University of Tsukuba Office of Public Relations
Sanatech Seed Co.,Ltd.
Since the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA in 1953, the gene structure of many organisms, including humans, animals, and plants, has been studied in detail and the roles of different genes have been understood. In 2012, after intense research by many scientists, a new genome editing technology called CRISPR/Cas9 was presented to the world. This technology makes it possible to precisely edit only the target genes without leaving any foreign DNA. This technology can be applied to plant breeding making it more efficient and has great potential for the development of the next generation of crops to improve food quality in terms of nutrition, processing, storage, and health (e.g., reducing allergic reactions), while ensuring sustainable food security. Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna were awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their role in the development of the genome editing technology ‘CRISPR/Cas9’. Sanatech Seed secured a non-exclusive research and commercial license to CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology from Corteva Agriscience and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.
γ-Aminobutyric acid（GABA）is an amino acid that is found in animals, plants, and bacteria. In humans, GABA play a major role in neurotransmission. In addition, when taken orally, it is effective in reducing elevated blood pressure and relieving stress.