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SBIR Phase II: Development of Broadly Efficacious Ribonucleic Acid Interference Triggers for Pesticides


The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project will be to provide farmers with a new class of biotechnology-based pesticides for more affordable and environmentally benign crop production by addressing an unmet need: an efficacious, selective and safe pesticide. The project will focus on a pesticide for the diamondback moth (DBM), a pest that damages Brassica crops such as canola, cabbage, cauliflower and collards. It is the most costly invasive crop pest worldwide, for which there is no effective solution with acceptable resistance management. DMB has developed resistance to more than 90 active ingredients in conventional insecticides, i.e., almost every insecticide class known. If successful, this biotechnology platform will contribute to sustainable food production and enhanced biodiversity with minimal use of non-selective traditional pesticides associated with human health costs. The goal is to develop a product that is efficacious, selective, and provides improved resistance management against field populations of DMB.<br/><br/>The intellectual merit of this SBIR Phase II project is the development of RNAi-based pesticide for the treatment of diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella) infestations in cruciferous crops. In the last five years, there have been significant advances in the methods for the production of RNAi triggers that allow the manufacturing of these materials in large quantities and at a low price, which is required for broad agricultural applications. Topical RNAi-based pesticides have been demonstrated in the lab to be very selective with respect to the intended target. They also may be readily modified to combat developed pesticide resistance by target pests. However, due to low efficacy at economically attractive application rates, very few pests and no Lepidopteran insects are currently in the RNAi list of commercial targets. This project specifically addresses the challenges related to RNAi efficacy, and the development of the proposed technology could be applied to Lepidopteran control and other biotechnology applications. The outcome of the proposed research would provide the first example of a scalable RNAi-based insecticide targeting Plutella xylostella or any Lepidopteran.<br/><br/>This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Juan Arhancet
Nanosur LLC
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