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Biotech Partners on Synthetic Proteins to Protect Crops

Wood moth larva

Cossus or wood moth larva, a common agricultural insect pest (Christian Fischer, Wikimedia Commons.

24 Apr. 2023. A developer of synthetic antibody-like proteins for protecting crops is collaborating with a global agricultural chemical company on sustainable biologic insect controls. Financial and intellectual property details of the agreement between Syngenta Crop Protection in Basel, Switzerland and Biotalys N.V. in Ghent, Belgium were not disclosed.

Biotalys is a 10 year-old biotechnology enterprise spun-off from research labs at Flanders Institute for Biotechnology. The company’s Agrobody process develops compounds resembling antibody proteins that it says are more sustainable solutions for protecting crops against fungi and bacterial microbes, as well as insects. Biotalys says it maintains libraries of antibody-like proteins, from which it conducts high-volume analytics to identify precise candidates matching specific characteristics of crop and pest targets.

The company says it conducts field tests of product candidates and further engineers the protein chemistry as needed, before regulatory submissions and manufacturing. Biotalys says its process is less costly and cuts three years from development times needed for conventional agricultural chemicals. The company’s lead product, brand-named Evoca, is a biologic fungicide to protect against botrytis and related powdery mildews that it says is tested so far in more than 600 trials. Biotalys plans to submit Evoca this year for approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Extend Agrobody technology to specific insects

Syngenta Crop Protection is a division of the Syngenta Group that researches, develops, and markets solutions in 90 countries for protecting crops against wide array of pathogens and other pests. Syngenta’s offerings include biological products such as fertilizers based on altered microbes for preserving nitrogen in soil and biological stimulants for enhancing crop growth and resilience against stresses, as well as bio-based controls against pests, such as bacteria and insects.

In their new agreement, the companies are collaborating on research, development, and commercialization of Biotalys’s Agrobody technology extended to specific insect pests identified by Syngenta. The parties expect the agreement to accelerate use of bio-based proteins for protecting cops from insects into new markets worldwide. Biotalys currently has one product against insects in development, to protect against lepidoptera, or moths and butterflies. While lepidoptera act as plant pollinators, as caterpillars such as wood moth larvae, they chew on a variety of succulent plant tissue, from coffee plants to the interior wood in trees.

“Collaborating with Syngenta,” says  Biotalys CEO Patrice Sellès in a statement, “is a major milestone in our continued mission to providing growers around the globe with safe, efficient, and more sustainable agricultural solutions.” Camilla Corsi, head of crop protection research at Syngenta Crop Protection adds, “By combining our proven research and development capabilities with the breakthrough protein-based innovations of the Biotalys Agrobody platform, we are determined to play a pivotal role in addressing critical farmer needs around the globe.”

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