PARIS — The French genomics company Genset has concluded another technological alliance, this time in the field of agricultural genetics with the Los Angeles-based company Ceres. The deal represents a new line in Genset's strategic product arsenal, since up to now its gene discovery programs have been targeted exclusively at human health applications.

Genset was not looking to enter the realm of agricultural biotechnology, and its finance and administration manager, Catherine Faure-Cachard, admitted that contacts between the two sides were initiated by Ceres.

The agreement gives Ceres an exclusive license to exploit specific aspects of Genset's genomics technologies for applications in agricultural genetics, while Genset retains exclusive rights to all human health applications of discoveries generated by the collaboration.

Genset has acquired 20 percent of Ceres' equity at an undisclosed price, and will receive service fees during the term of the agreement, which has not been specified either. Faure-Cachard told BioWorld International that Genset would be receiving R&D revenues from the deal starting this year and would have the possibility of subscribing to future increases in Ceres' capital upon completion of certain milestones. Additionally, Genset's chairman and CEO, Pascal Brandys, has joined the board of Ceres.

Ceres is setting up its own plant alongside Genset's Genomics Research Center, in Evry, south of Paris, to facilitate technical cooperation between the two companies on agricultural genetics projects.

With initial venture funding from Costa Mesa, California-based Oxford Biosciences Partners, the recently created Ceres has begun developing a broad range of plant genomics technologies and has already established collaborations with several scientific institutions. The company is headed by Walter De Logi, who has 15 years' experience in the agricultural biotechnology field.

Brandys described the deal with Ceres as "an excellent opportunity to apply Genset's genomics expertise to a new and very large commercial area. The alliance will provide an additional revenue stream without detracting from our principle business of providing genomics solutions to our pharmaceutical partners."

In effect, the company's core activity is to provide tailored genomics information to pharmaceutical companies for developing new drugs for pathologies such as prostate cancer, schizophrenia, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis, and it already has formed a number of alliances with pharmaceutical companies and medical institutions.