Light Bios Firefly™ Petunia Casts Light on the Future of Horticulture

Agriculture
Consumer Goods
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February 5, 2024

Light Bio, a pioneering synthetic biology startup, has officially launched its revolutionary bioluminescent petunias in the United States. With the backing of industry titans like NFX and Ginkgo Bioworks, Light Bio is reshaping the horticultural landscape by introducing a new class of plants that radiate an enchanting glow, transforming homes, gardens, and public spaces.

Glowing plants have long captured human fascination, and now scientists have unveiled a method to make them shine even brighter. Published in Nature Methods, scientists introduced genetic modifications that amplify bioluminescence in various plants by a staggering 100 times. The collaborative effort of 26 scientists across 9 research organizations harnessed genes from multiple luminous mushrooms to optimize and intensify the glow in plants.

Building upon previous breakthroughs, the researchers initially inserted DNA from mushrooms to create plants that emit continuous light. The surprising parallel between mushroom bioluminescence and plant metabolism allowed for a greater emission of visible light. In this latest revelation, the team fine-tuned the inserted genes to further enhance luminescence.

Beyond the realm of glowing plants, the genetic modifications demonstrated elevated luminescence in yeast and mammalian cells. However, the self-sustaining luminescence in plants, particularly petunias, is the shining star of this endeavor. This metabolic synergy enables perpetual illumination without external assistance, with petunias exhibiting the brightest bioluminescence, especially in their flower buds.

Come April, these luminous petunias will be available under the brand Firefly™ Petunia, aptly named for their bright buds reminiscent of fireflies. Last September, the USDA independently verified the safety of Light Bio's genetically engineered Firefly Petunia for cultivation in the United States, opening unprecedented opportunities for plant enthusiasts to bask in the transformative experience of living light.

Light Bio is now accepting orders for Firefly Petunias, available at www.light.bio. The initial offering includes 50,000 plants priced at $29 each, with shipments scheduled to commence in April. The choice of petunias as the debut product stems from their popularity as ornamental plants, known for ease of growth and abundant flower production. The Firefly Petunia seamlessly blends into conventional varieties but adds an ethereal aura at night, glowing from seedling to mature plants without any specialized care.

"This milestone—and the magical experience we are bringing to people across the country—has been decades in the making," said Keith Wood, CEO of Light Bio. "As part of the scientific team that discovered the bioluminescence genes from fireflies, I helped create the first glowing plant in 1986 which has inspired scientists worldwide. In the forty-odd years since we have discovered a new bioluminescence technology that now allows us to bring these delightful plants to consumers. We can't wait to see their reactions and to discover the bright future ahead for this incredible technology."

Jason Kelly, CEO and co-founder of Ginkgo Bioworks, expressed excitement, stating, "This achievement isn't just novel and exciting—it shows how the power of synthetic biology can light a passion for nature and technology. We at Ginkgo are thrilled to continue to support Light Bio in illuminating the world."

Light Bio, in collaboration with Ginkgo Bioworks, is committed to the ongoing optimization of bioluminescent plant genetics to achieve even greater brightness. Future iterations are anticipated to be at least 10-fold brighter, with a vision of introducing more plant varieties and colors. Beyond the joy these plants bring, the underlying science holds promise for advancements in critical areas such as food security and nutrition.

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