SCIENTISTS in the region have been given £200,000 to develop revolutionary technology which could lead to healthier and improved crop yields.

Creative Gene Technology (CGT) was founded in 2000 by scientists working for Durham University.

The company secured £200,000 from the Centre of Excellence for Life Sciences (Cels), the regional organisation set up to encourage growth in the North-East's healthcare sector.

CGT uses techniques developed over the past ten years by its two founders, Professors Toni Slabas and Keith Lindsey. The two scientists are internationally recognised in the fields of plant biochemistry, molecular biology and developmental genetics.

By combining a new approach known as 'proteomics' - which identifies and analyses proteins - and new techniques in plant genomics, CGT aims to achieve improved crop yields.

The aim is to use their plant cell technology to encourage resistance to pests and disease, without the need for toxic chemicals.

Professor Lindsey said: "Today's announcement will enable us to undertake vital research and develop our technology one step closer to becoming a reality in the marketplace."

Dr Ian Robson, business development director at Cels, said: "The research has many potential applications.

"For example, the technology can be used to increase yields and improve the quality of oils coming from plants, meaning that more and better oils could be produced for a variety of uses - including applications in the cosmetics and healthcare industries and even in the production of bio-diesel.

"CGT's technology can also be used to improve yields of certain proteins in plant cells, which again could have key benefits for the healthcare industry."

Cels is funded by the regional development agency, One NorthEast, and supported by the European Regional Development Fund.