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Green Chemistry Challenge: 2020 Small Business Award

Vestaron Corporation

SPEAR® Insecticide: First Member of a New Class of Biopesticides That Show Efficacy Comparable to Synthetic Insecticides

Vestaron is being recognized for producing a new biopesticide called Spear®. This pesticide is based on a naturally occurring component inspired by spider venom that can effectively control target pests while showing no adverse effects on people, the environment, and non-target wildlife like fish and bees. Spear® should provide growers with a new pest management tool that also lessens environmental impacts.

Summary of Technology:

Insecticide development faces many inherent challenges: for example, insecticides must be toxic to pests without major toxicity toward other organisms and must be persistent enough to protect crops in fields while remaining environmentally benign. Insects can develop resistance to insecticides, requiring continuing development of insecticides with new modes of action, and insecticides are traditionally produced from non-renewable feedstocks, further increasing their environmental impact.

Vestaron Corporation’s Spear® pesticide is a novel peptide insecticide, based on a peptide found in the venom of the Blue Mountains funnel-web spider that acts against the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor. The Spear® peptide is produced by yeast fermentation whose primary input is a commodity sugar derived from corn. The Spear® peptide is selective for action ion channels in targeted species of insects, while showing no activity against mammalian or non-target invertebrate ion channels, and shows minimal to no toxicity toward humans and environmental targets such as bees and fish. Spear® has been approved with a zero-day pre-harvest interval and four-hour re-entry time, demonstrating its low potential for harm toward handlers, consumers, and workers. Because Spear® is peptide-based, it biodegrades into nontoxic amino acids.

Spear® has shown comparable or better crop protection compared to current synthetic chemical pesticides. Insecticides targeting the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor account for approximately 30 percent of the global insecticide market, and existing insecticides in this market (neonicotinoids) are controversial due to possible environmental impacts such as possible toxicity to bees. Vestaron anticipates sales of $6 to 9 million in 2020 and should provide growers with a new tool for difficult-to-manage pests as well as a means to lessen their environmental impact.

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