The need for new thinking in the development of pest control is becoming more urgent as the EU is withdrawing many of the mainstay chemicals from usage. Natural products generated by microorganisms as part of a defence mechanism may provide an alternative to synthetic agrochemicals, and this is an area where collaborative research can fast-track new strategies.
Barrie Wilkinson of Cambridge company Isomerase Therapeutics explains that crop protection and animal health is the focus of the company’s recent award from Innovate UK.
“We are working in collaboration with Acidophil Ltd, a commercial innovation group, to develop new products to protect crops and livestock from pests.
“Many plants and microorganisms protect themselves against predators and competitors by releasing chemicals, called secondary metabolites, and these active ingredients offer the potential for a new generation of pest control agents.
“Isomerase typically, but not solely, works on natural products produced by actinomycetes, which are bacteria prevalent in the soil.
“Natural products have evolved to be selective, potent and bio-degradable organic molecules so they are environmentally friendly. They are also produced artificially using fermentation, which has less environmental impact than traditional chemical synthesis,” he explains.
Wilkinson spoke at the Pollinator event “Symbiosis and Synergies: The Secrets to Successful Agri-Tech Collaborations” on 21 April 2015. The Pollinator provided an opportunity for end-users to meet with technologists and researchers, supporting the growth of an agri-tech cluster.
Part of Isomerase and Acidophil’s innovation consists of combining synthetic biology and chemistry to generate novel and improved versions of natural products for crop and livestock protection to address the shortcomings of existing products so Wilkinson is keen to gain an understand of the market requirements.
He says: “Isomerase and Acidophil wanted to participate in the Pollinator event as we are looking to work with agribusinesses that understand the unmet needs of farmers, are interested in innovative products and have resources and expertise in the animal health or crop protection arenas.”
You can read more about the discussions held at the Pollinator in the full report, which is available free to members on our Publications page.