enabling breakthroughs in the bio-insecticide discovery
We have a platform for developing environmentally safe bioinsecticides from spider venoms, from other venoms – scorpions, sea anemones amongst others – which should … revitalize, really, the process of discovering new insecticides. So we’re really excited about that, too. It’s not just one product, it’s a pathway to find multiple products.
Jeroen Hofenk, Chief Science Officer
BIO-INSECTICIDE LEAD SELECTION
The pesticide market is a multibillion-dollar industry. Agrochemicals dominate the marketplace with >95% of the market share, but their spectrum of activity is often too broad with significant non-target toxicity. Additionally, the restricted range of targets limits their long-term viability in the face of growing insecticide resistance. Since resistance development should be anticipated for any insecticide, the development of new insecticides with specificity and effectiveness against target species, together with minimal non-target toxicity and environmental persistence, will continue to be in demand. Spider-venom peptides are a rich source of potential bioinsecticides that can combine the desirable attributes of high potency, novel target activity, structural stability and phyletic selectivity.
Moreover, pharmacological characterisation of spider toxins is revealing novel target sites not previous exploited by conventional agrochemicals, thereby validating new insecticide targets for future screening programs. These peptides can be delivered to insect pests via many different routes, including incorporation of transgenes encoding the peptides into entomopathogens or crop plants.
For venom peptides to play a competitive role in the bioinsecticide market they must: (i) have broad pest-species specificity; (ii) have low toxicity in non-target organisms; (iii) remain in the environment long enough to be effective, but not so long as to induce resistance development within pest species; (iv) be cheap to produce; (v) be easy to formulate and deliver; (vi) be publicly perceived as innocuous; and (vii) be readily accessible to both small farmers as well as large agribusinesses.