Enhancement of insecticidal peptide delivery

Period of Performance: 01/01/2012 - 12/31/2012


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Kalamazoo, MI 49008
Principal Investigator, Firm POC


This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project proposes to enhance the delivery of a novel class of small insecticidal peptides. Insect damage to crops threatens global food security and as a result farmers grow millions of acres of crops with insecticides expressed as transgenes, and protect millions more acres with spray-on pesticides. The inevitable evolution of insect resistance to insecticides occurs despite rotating mode-of-action chemicals and proper transgenic plant refuge stewardship. Research into safe new insecticides is needed now to protect our future crop production. This project proposes to develop an enhanced delivery of a new class of insecticidal peptides from the Blue Mountains funnel-web spider. Individual peptides have been identified and characterized from a venom screen. Their mode of action is insect-specific and interferes with various ion channels in the central nervous system (CNS). Toxicity occurs when insect pests ingest the peptide and it passes through the gut wall, into the hemolymph and into the CNS. Vestaron Corporation is developing spray-on pesticide products from these peptides are looking to enhance their activity further by aiding in their delivery to the CNS. This proposed research involves combining Vestaron's peptides to one of three classes of proteins that will aid in crossing the gut wall. The tests will be done in vitro by spraying the purified proteins onto leaf disks and running insect mortality assays and screening insect hemolymph for elevated levels of the insecticidal peptide. It is anticipated that one or many of the combinations will generate a technology that enhances delivery of the peptide and results in increased efficacy. Completion of this Phase I project will allow a focused transition to in planta assays in Phase II where the spray-on technology will be manufactured as a transgene and the proof of concept will generate a research partnership within the agriculture industry to develop a new plant incorporated protectant (PIP). The improvements from Phase I will also be captured by Vestaron's own spray-on product pipeline resulting in this improvement being available to both the PIP and spray-on markets in the future.