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Fast Company: How Elo Life Systems is helping save bananas from extinction

March 19, 2024

Elo Life Systems is one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies in the small & mighty (1-50 employees) category.


The Cavendish banana—the most-common species sold in stores across the United States, Europe, and China—is at risk of going extinct from Fusarium oxysporum, a deadly fungus. Elo Life Systems, a biotech startup which was spun out of a gene-editing company in December 2021, genetically engineered Cavendish bananas in an effort to make them resistant to the fungus.

In April 2023, Dole planted Elo’s gene-edited bananas—Elo altered a handful of the fruit’s 30,000-plus genes to generate proteins that will defend it from the fungus—to carry out a field trial on a plantation in Central America. Elo is also working to use its computational biology and “molecular farming” that’s designed to teach fruits and vegetables how to behave to create sustainable alternatives to environmentally intensive produce.

The company, which raised $24.5 million in February 2023, is creating an alternative to the increasingly popular zero-calorie monk fruit sweetener. At present, monk fruit is expensive to source, only grows in particular climates, and rots quickly. Elo uses watermelons and sugar beets as biofactories to grow the monk fruit protein and then extracts it to make a lab-grown substitute. The company believes it’s on track to commercialize the sweetener by 2025.

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