Significant Stride against Soybean Disease

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2Blades delivers on project with Bayer Crop Science In effort to combat Asian Soybean Rust

Asian soybean rust (ASR) is the leading cause of crop losses in Brazil and other soy-producing countries. The 2Blades Foundation, The Sainsbury Laboratory and partners at the Universidade Federal de Viçosa in Brazil worked together to identify novel sources of genetic resistance in a project launched in 2018 with Bayer Crop Science.

Image credit: Photos by Peter van Esse and Yogesh Gupta, and electron microscopy image by Kathrin Thor.

Asian soybean rust is a fast-moving disease caused by the airborne fungus, Phakopsora pachyrhizi, that can cause rapid crop losses of up to 90% within just 3 weeks of initial infection. ASR thrives in tropical regions and is the leading cause of soybean disease across the large soy production areas of Brazil, causing crop losses of more than US$ 10 billion since 2001.

EVANSTON, ST. LOUIS, & NORWICH (February 2024): 2Blades announces that it has successfully delivered on goals in a project launched in 2018 and extended in 2023 with Bayer Crop Science to identify resistance genes against Asian Soybean Rust (ASR). This achievement marks the successful completion of the collaboration, paving the way for Bayer to advance new targeted strategies for controlling and combatting this destructive disease.

While fungicides have historically been used to combat P. pachyrhizi, the rust pathogen is rapidly adapting and building tolerance to these chemical controls.

“Asian soybean rust is one of the most significant threats to soybean production globally,” said Ty Vaughn, Head of Plant Biotechnology for Bayer Crop Science. “The successful work that we’ve been able to accomplish with 2Blades will allow us to bring the solutions that growers need to farms more quickly.”

In search of more effective measures against ASR, 2Blades and Bayer Crop Science sought to identify novel sources of genetic resistance for sustainable and environmentally friendly protection from ASR. In addition to identifying resistance genes, 2Blades’ scientists achieved major advances in understanding the molecular complexity of P. pachyrhizi, including assembling its complete genome sequence. This knowledge helps to ensure durability of resistance and complements Bayer’s work to provide various modes of action against ASR for effective, sustainable solutions to soybean farmers in the US and Brazil.

This milestone is a testament to what can be achieved through collaboration and a shared commitment to advancing new, innovative approaches against major crop diseases like ASR,” stated Kamil Witek, Group Leader for 2Blades at The Sainsbury Laboratory.

“Not only were our partners at Bayer a seasoned and dedicated team that made the effort very positive and productive, the team led by Professor Sergio Brommenschenkel at Universidade Federal de Viçosa brought significant strengths in tropical legume genetics and first-hand knowledge of soybean cultivation in Brazil. The excellent delivery-focused work carried out by the 2Blades Group exemplifies the value of embedding a translational research team at The Sainsbury Laboratory, a world-leading institute for fundamental and applied scientific research on plant-pathogen interactions.”

Executive Director of The Sainsbury Laboratory, Nick Talbot, said, “We're thrilled to contribute to this important milestone, connecting laboratory breakthroughs to practical solutions that protect global soybean yields. Our collaboration with 2Blades and industry players is instrumental in translating such discoveries into tangible, real-world applications and ensure a more resilient future for our food sources.”

2Blades retains rights to these discoveries for use in programs for smallholder farmers in low-income, food-deficit countries. In 2023, 2Blades launched a program to help African growers protect their soy crops against ASR.


2Blades is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that advances solutions to crop losses by merging cutting-edge scientific discovery with delivery in the field, contributing to a more resilient, sustainable, and productive global food supply. 2Blades establishes and manages development programs addressing significant unsolved crop disease problems and delivers outcomes to downstream implementation partners. It conducts these programs in its own laboratories and in collaboration with leading research institutions around the world. 2Blades also manages a portfolio of specific traits and enabling technologies used in its own programs and out-licensed for broad use. 2Blades is headquartered in Evanston, IL, with research labs in Norwich, UK and St. Paul, MN, and offices in Chapel Hill, NC and Zurich, Switzerland.


The Sainsbury Laboratory ( is an independent research institute that focuses on plant health for a sustainable future. It makes fundamental scientific discoveries in molecular plant-microbe interactions and applies these to reduce crop losses caused by plant diseases, particularly in low-income countries. Around one hundred and twenty staff and students work and study at the Laboratory which is located on the Norwich Research Park, United Kingdom. The Laboratory is generously supported by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and by the University of East Anglia, wins competitive grants from the BBSRC, ERC and other research grant funding bodies and, for some research programmes, is funded by commercial companies. Established in 1987, highlights of The Sainsbury Laboratory include: discovery of RNA interference in plants by Prof. Sir David Baulcombe FRS as recognised by the Lasker Award and the Wolf Prize in Agriculture, discovery of the first immune receptor in plants by Prof. Jonathan Jones FRS, three current Group Leaders are Fellows of the Royal Society, four Group Leaders have won multiple prestigious European Research Council grants and five researchers have been on the Highly Cited Researchers list of top 1% scientists in the world since 2018.