Biotechnology for green Pesticides

Bangor University in conjunction with Almac Group and Hockley International have been awarded a grant to develop an organic natural based pesticide. The work will be carried out at the University’s College of Natural Sciences (CNS) and Almac’s laboratories based in Northern Ireland commencing in September.

This is the first industrially relevant CNS project using Synthetic Biology methods; the research brings £0.5 million to Bangor University over 3 years. This £1.25 million research is funded through Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council and Technology Strategy Board and it is aimed at bringing a novel natural herbicide produced via enzymatic route from an abundant natural oil to the market.

“It will be a close collaboration between the University’s School of Biological Sciences, Biocomposites Centre and 2 commercial partners - Almac and Hockley International,” explains Dr Viacheslav Tverezovskiy who is leading this research from the BioComposites Centre.

Natural evolution has provided microbes with a toolbox of enzymes that are able to convert many biomolecules in nature. In the scope of this project, Prof Peter Golyshin and Dr Tran Hai from the School of Biological Sciences at Bangor University will be harnessing microbial enzymatic potential to streamline the synthetic route for production of bioactive compounds from low-cost feedstocks.

Professor Tom Moody, Head of Biocatalysis & Isotope Chemistry at Almac, commented: “This project enables us to build upon our already significant expertise and experience and is very much aligned with our current strategy of developing innovative enzyme technology. A dedicated team of scientists based at our headquarters in Craigavon will work collaboratively with Bangor and Hockley and we are very excited to be a partner in this unique project. The development of a specific enzyme technology will enhance both the project but also the development of value adding technologies in the UK.”

Frank Howard, MD and owner of Hockley International adds “Hockley has worked with the friendly and professional team at Biocomposites Centre for some four years on a large KTP project and some smaller items of research. Now we look forward to starting a new major three year project in synthetic biology along with Bangor and Almac which promises to be most exciting and scientifically challenging for us all.”

Publication date: 22 July 2014