Professor Johnathan Napier with some of the GM camelina developed by Rothamsted Research.

Bioscience company harvests the rights to UK-developed omega-3 camelina

There will be significant market opportunities for products from GM plant, says Yield10 chief


North American agricultural bioscience company Yield10 has exercised its option to finalise an exclusive global, commercial licence to advanced omega-3 production technology from UK-based Rothamsted Research Limited, it announced today.

In 2020, Yield10 signed an exclusive collaboration agreement with Hertfordshire-headquartered Rothamsted to support Rothamsted’s Flagship Program to develop omega-3 oils in genetically modified Camelina sativa, an oilseed plant. As part of the collaboration agreement, Yield10 received an exclusive option to sign a global, exclusive licence agreement for the technology.

Over the last decade the Rothamsted team, led by Professor Johnathan Napier, has demonstrated the production of omega-3 oils in camelina seed and conducted evaluations of the oils in salmon feeding and human clinical studies to demonstrate lipid lowering effects.

Ready to commercialise

“Our decision to exercise the exclusive global option to the omega-3 production technology with Rothamsted underscores our belief that there will be significant market opportunities for the omega-3 oil profiles that can be produced using camelina as a platform crop,” said Yield10’s Scottish-born president and chief executive Dr Oliver Peoples.

Dr Oliver Peoples: "We are on a promising path to commercialising elite omega-3 varieties of camelina."

“The Rothamsted team has advanced the omega-3 camelina technology to where it is ready to begin commercialisation. We are also planning improvements in the varieties through the deployment of our herbicide tolerance and performance traits. We are on a promising path to commercialising elite omega-3 varieties of camelina that combine good agronomics in the field while also producing high-value, high-purity omega-3 oils possessing very attractive economics.”

Yield10 said the potential market opportunity for omega-3 fatty acids produced in camelina includes use in pharmaceutical (ethyl-EPA) products, dietary supplements, and food and feed ingredients. Currently, the primary source of the essential fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is ocean-caught fish, where omega-3 oil produced from anchovy harvest is the industry benchmark.

Pressure on supply

The company said that over the last few years, there has been increasing pressure on the supply of omega-3 oil due to over-fishing. Earlier this year Peru, which produces 20% of the global fish oil supply, cancelled its first season anchovy harvest due to a lack of mature fish. Producing omega-3 fatty acids in camelina may represent a way to enable a predictable supply of high-quality omega-3 oils to meet the global demand for EPA and DHA, added Yield10.

Under the collaboration with Yield10, additional intellectual property has been developed by Rothamsted for next generation omega-3 camelina varieties. However, in response to customer interest, Yield10 has elected to prioritise the current "EPA8" omega-3 camelina variety as the initial profile for commercialisation. In spring 2023, Yield10 planted omega-3 (EPA) camelina at acre-scale in the US to begin the ramp-up of seed inventory for future planting as well as to produce oil for use in business development activities.

It said the seed yield, oil content and oil composition of the EPA8 camelina variety have thus far met its expectations for performance, setting the stage for advanced development and possible future market introduction. Yield10 plans to conduct further seed scale-up of EPA8 Camelina in contra season (off season) in South America this winter.

SECURE Rule bid

In the third quarter of 2023, Yield10 submitted a Request for Status Review (“RSR”) for EPA8 Camelina to USDA-APHIS Biotechnology Regulatory Services under the Sustainable, Ecological, Consistent, Uniform, Responsible, Efficient (SECURE) Rule. A favourable review under the SECURE Rule would allow the crop to be grown at large scale in the United States.

Yield10 and Rothamsted are also pursuing commercial development of camelina to produce omega-3 oil containing both EPA and DHA fatty acids as a sustainable alternative to oil obtained from ocean-harvested fish, which serves as an essential ingredient for fish feed used in aquaculture, including the farming of Atlantic salmon.

Yield10 is headquartered in Woburn, MA and has a Canadian subsidiary, Yield10 Oilseeds Inc., located in Saskatoon, Canada.

'We might be late to the party but we're the one that's turning up with the champagne': read more about Professor Johnathan Napier's 20-year-plus efforts to develop a plant that can produce omega-3 in the current edition of Fish Farming Expert online magazine.