Bayer Leads Breakthrough Innovations in Health and Agriculture

Bayer held its first ever Breakthrough Innovation Forum, focusing on longer-term opportunities for health and agriculture leveraging emerging technologies.

“The confluence of biology, chemistry, and data sciences provides the opportunity to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. But this opportunity only exists for companies and scientists who dare to ask, ‘what if.’” 

Those were the words of Werner Baumann, chairman of the Board of Management of Bayer AG, when he opened the company’s inaugural Breakthrough Innovation Forum on April 1. Guided by a strong belief in the endless possibilities of human creativity, the forum focused on how leveraging emerging technologies can provide longer-term opportunities for health and agriculture.

Bayer, a global enterprise with core competencies in the life science fields of healthcare and nutrition, recently updated its Pharma and Crop Science Divisions’ short- and mid-term pipeline to drive long-term innovations in the life sciences. In conjunction with the event, Bayer announced that it is accelerating investment in its Leaps by Bayer impact investment unit, pledging more than €1.3 billion in funding until the end of 2024. 

“With Bayer stepping up its investment in Leaps over the coming years, we will be able to continue on our successful path and provide funding for the brightest minds working on solutions that truly make a difference for people and the planet,” said Jürgen Eckhardt, Head of Leaps by Bayer.

Leaps by Bayer follows a unique approach aimed at tackling ten of humanity’s biggest challenges, including curing cancer and reducing the environmental impact of agriculture. The unit has embarked on many joint ventures and led several successful investment rounds. 

Over the past three years, Bayer has invested more than €2.5 billion to construct a Cell & Gene Therapy Platform. The company also drives innovation in the area through strategic partnerships that have resulted in eight projects in various stages of clinical development and leading programs in Parkinson’s disease, Pompe disease, and congestive heart failure. 

One of the critical acquisitions made to accelerate gene therapy research is that of AskBio, a leading clinical-stage adeno-associated virus (AAV) gene therapy company dedicated to improving the lives of patients with rare disorders and other diseases.

“While we are finally becoming successful in bringing genetic medicines to fulfill unmet needs. Such medicines have the potential to treat much larger populations of complex diseases, such as Parkinson’s, congested heart failure, and Alzheimer’s,” said Dr. Jude Samulski, president, chief scientific officer, and co-founder of AskBio at the forum.

In agriculture, Bayer is employing the power of emerging technologies to create a sustainable and resilient food system and help farmers produce more with fewer resources and reduced emissions. Bayer’s investment in crop science R&D is unparalleled in the industry at €2 billion annually, and the company boasts a robust innovation pipeline spanning seeds and trait technologies, crop protection, and digital solutions valued at up to €30 billion peak sales potential over the next two decades.

“The environmental health and nutritional challenges we face are huge,” said Rodrigo Santos, President of Bayer’s Crop Science division, who stressed the importance of immediate action to combat food insecurity and climate change. Santos added that Bayer is “uniquely positioned to lead a revolution in agriculture. And perhaps more importantly, we also recognize that we have a responsibility to do so.”

One way Bayer is leading the decarbonization of agriculture is through its digital farming platform, the Bayer Carbon Initiative, which incentivizes farmers to use climate-smart practices and uses next-generation technology to quantify and track the impact of these practices. 

Bayer has also launched the world’s first biotech defense against corn rootworm based on RNAi technology. Its short-stature corn will be launched as part of Bayer’s newly introduced Smart Corn System in 2023 as a more weather-resistant plant to the market. Other initiatives include collaborations and acquisitions, such as that of Oerth Bio, the world’s only company designing targeted protein modulators specifically for plant health applications. 

Bob Reiter, head of research and development at Bayer’s Crop Science division, noted at the forum that these types of technologies are “truly a win-win for farmers and sustainability, and we are excited about the potential that this technology holds for a whole host of applications in the future.”