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From the genome to the market

Participation in the Xylella fastidiosa sequencing project inspired biochemist Ana Claudia Rasera to move into corporate research

Personal archiveBiochemist Ana Claudia Rasera was 30 years old when in 1997, she was invited to participate in the first genome sequencing project in Brazil, studying Xylella fastidiosa, a bacteria that causes citrus variegated chlorosis (CVC), which at the time was significantly damaging orange groves in São Paulo.

She was a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of São Paulo (USP), a position she had held since 1996, and joined a team led by biochemist Fernando Reinach, then professor at the USP Institute of Chemistry (IQ-USP) and coordinator of one of the laboratories responsible for the sequencing and for training researchers.

Shortly before the sequencing was completed, Rasera was invited to coordinate the Xylella Functional Genome project together with biologist Jesus Ferro, to investigate the functions of the genes identified in the sequencing, and to thus understand how the bacteria caused CVC.

She accepted the challenge. In addition to her ​​molecular genetics and biotechnology qualifications, the experience she gained by participating in the Xylella genome project inspired her to engage in other ventures, focusing on ​​corporate research.

In 2002, two years after the bacteria sequencing was completed, Rasera left the laboratory where she worked and joined other members of the project to found Allelyx (Xylella written backwards), a biotechnology research and development (R&D) company focused on generating patents and technology licenses in applied genomics.

She was 35 years old and never returned to her academic career. “Our company allowed us to establish several partnerships with the industry, to understand their problems and try to find biotechnological solutions,” she explains. “It motivated me to study an MBA, to learn how to coordinate large teams and properly manage the resources available for research,” she says.

In 2008, Alellyx was sold together with the company CanaVialis to US agrochemical multinational Monsanto for US$290 million. Rasera worked at the company for two more years before taking a position as biotechnology development manager at DuPont, an American company that produces chemicals, polymers, and agricultural products.

She remained in the field of ​​agricultural biotechnology, coordinating research projects involving sugarcane. In 2016, she was invited to lead the Grupo Fleury R&D department. “Today I manage a team of more than 20 researchers working in applied genomics, in the field of personalized medicine,” she says.