Bt resistance management: software for research, education, and outreach

Period of Performance: 04/29/2015 - 12/31/2015

$100K

Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Applied Biomathematics, Inc.
100 N COUNTRY RD Array
Setauket, NY 11733
Firm POC, Principal Investigator

Abstract

Bt crops offer tremendous potential benefits to growers, the environment, seed companies, and society. The risk of pest resistance threatens to reduce the benefits of Bt technology, including its profitability. Mathematical models of evolution provide the main tool guiding insect resistance management (IRM). IRM models are used to quantify and communicate the benefits of stewardship practices. The EPA requires registrants of new Bt crops in the United States to support IRM plans with models that can forestall the evolution of resistance. Models are also increasingly used internally in industry to inform product design and strategy. Currently, a patchwork of in-house, outsourced, and published models are used to assess the risk of resistance evolution on a case-by-case basis. A common modeling platform would increase the efficiency of research and regulation and the advisory role USDA plays to growers and EPA while promoting transparency and uniform scientific standards. Focused development of a common modeling platform is also an opportunity to surpass the capabilities of existing models with features that address current and near-future needs, such as increased genetic complexity.The proposed research will determine the feasibility of producing an IRM modeling platform that matches or exceeds the capabilities of existing models in use by industry, academic, and government scientists while being flexible enough for diverse applications. Feasibility will be tested using a prototype software framework to reproduce 3 published IRM models addressing different biological questions. Close review of a larger set of 10 studies will also serve to identify and prioritize additional software features for development in Phase II. Development of a second prototype aimed at greater genetic complexity will investigate the feasibility of obtaining uniform results from multiple modeling frameworks.The initial target users of the proposed software platform are modelers in industry, academics and government. We expect to also quickly enter the market for graduate-level research and education. Future development of derivative products will target users in introductory and advanced undergraduate education. In our company's experience, accessible modeling tools not only achieve their intended direct benefits but also lead to job creation through greater investment in modeling and a better-educated work force.