NAPIGEN Publication Provides Proof of Concept of its Technology for Editing Cytoplasmic Genome (Mitochondrial and Chloroplast Genome)

Approach expected to have broad applications in agriculture, industrial biotechnology, human healthcare


WILMINGTON, Del., Jan. 28, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- NAPIGEN, a company developing proprietary technology to edit mitochondrial and chloroplast genomes, said it demonstrated for the first time the use of CRISPR technology and double-stranded DNA for genome editing in organelles, providing a proof-of-concept of its Edit Plasmids technology as effective tools for organelle genome editing and writing.

Scientists at NAPIGEN published their study, Cas9/gRNA-mediated genome editing of yeast mitochondria and Chlamydomonas chloroplasts, in January in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal PeerJ-Life and Environment (PeerJ 8:e8362

Though CRISPR/Cas9 has been widely used to engineer nuclear DNA in a number of organisms, mitochondria and chloroplasts—the powerhouse of cells—have been considered off-limits to this approach because of challenges of delivering RNA or DNA into organelles.

“Our approach has broad applications in agriculture, industrial biotechnology, human healthcare,” said Dr. Hajime Sakai, co-founder, president, and CEO of NAPIGEN. “We believe this technology can be harnessed to address a wide range of challenges from improving crop yields, resulting in protecting our environment by reducing the need for new farmland, to treating mitochondrial diseases.”

The NAPIGEN study demonstrated that its Edit Plasmids were able to precisely insert DNA into the genomes in yeast mitochondria and algal chloroplasts without any detectable insertion or deletion errors.

In the PeerJ report, NAPIGEN’s Edit Plasmids were constructed with two expression cassettes. The first cassette was for the expression of Cas9 and the other cassette was for the expression of guide RNAs. Each Edit Plasmid benefited from a unique set of promoters specific to each organelle. The Edit Plasmids also carried the donor DNA for integration between two double-strand break sites induced by Cas9/guide RNAs.

NAPIGEN is now working to use its approach to produce hybrid wheat crops to improve yield. Because the resulting plants produced from the technology would not differ from the plants that could eventually be produced by classical breeding or in nature (but over a substantially longer period of time), they are not expected to be considered GMO.

The company is also extending the technology in yeast mitochondria and exploring mechanisms to pursue both industrial and mammalian applications.

NAPIGEN was founded in 2016 by Dr. Hajime Sakai, who has more than 18 years of experience in agricultural R&D at DuPont Pioneer; University of California, Berkeley professor and entrepreneur Dr. Jay Keasling; venture capitalist and agriculture industry veteran Dr. Ganesh Kishore; and venture investor and former dean of agriculture Dr. Roger Wyse. The company is backed with initial funding from the Grantham Foundation, Breakout Labs, Thrive SVG, the State of Delaware, and individual investor and former DuPont executive Jim Borel. For more information, go to

Daniel Levine
Levine Media Group
(510) 280-5405