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Innovative natural biopesticide to be developed

BTG : 15 May, 2002  (New Product)
A new sustainable crop that could provide the answer to one of the world's biggest pest problems has been developed as a result of a unique collaboration with Costa Rica. BTG, a global leader in commercialising technology, announced today that it has signed agreements to speed development of an innovative, naturally-derived compound that protects crops from nematode worms. The compound, known as DMDP, is found naturally in the Costa Rican tree, Lonchocarpus felipei, and offers major benefits over existing control methods.
The collaboration involves BTG, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the Scottish Crop Research Institute, INBio, the Costa Rican National Biodiversity Institute and ECOS, a Costa Rican agricultural company. BTG patented the use of DMDP as a nematicide and has now signed development agreements with the Costa Rican organisations. Under the agreements BTG will co-ordinate field trials in temperate crops such as potatoes, and the Costa Rican organisations will develop DMDP in tropical crops such as bananas. These trials will add value to DMDP by demonstrating efficacy in the field.

BTG has also signed a licence agreement with a major agrochemical company which is evaluating the effectiveness of DMDP in potatoes.

Nematode worms can damage crops by feeding on the roots and are responsible for around 10% of crop production losses worldwide. In major crops alone this is estimated at $80 billion per annum representing a largely unaddressed market. Most existing treatments are highly toxic and have to be applied directly to the soil and plant roots, which is a slow and expensive method of application.

DMDP is a naturally occurring `phloem-mobile' nematicide. It can be sprayed onto the leaves of crops and will then flow to all parts of the plant including the roots. This makes it suitable for crop spraying which is a fast and cost-effective means of application. It can also be applied at much lower rates of usage than existing treatments. As it is a natural botanical compound, it may be registered more quickly with regulatory authorities as a biochemical and could be on the market within 3 years. Preliminary tests indicate that DMDP is of very low toxicity and its adoption could be rapid and widespread.

The collaboration agreement is both groundbreaking and unique. It is in compliance with the objectives of the 1992 United Nations Convention on Biodiversity in that Costa Rica and Costa Rican conservation efforts will benefit from the exploitation of this natural native resource. Through INBio's collaboration with the Ministry for Natural Resources, 100% of all benefits that INBio derives from the commercialisation of DMDP by BTG will be used in support of biodiversity conservation.

A unique feature is the element of friendly competition. Any income derived from the commercialisation of DMDP as a nematicide will be split between BTG, its UK partners and the Costa Rican organisations according to the relative success of each development programme.

Ana Lorena Guevara, General Coordinator for BioProspecting at INBio, said: 'This new collaboration is particularly significant in that it could lead the way to meaningful partner-based relationships for developing wild native resources in the future. The development of DMDP will have an important impact on INBio and the Costa Rican economy, both in terms of increasing GDP and in job creation.'

Dr Geoffrey Porges, BTG's Executive Vice President and Director, Health, Medical & BioTechnologies, said: 'These agreements build on BTG's successful track record in commercialising innovative crop protection compounds. We work with researchers on a global basis to identify high potential technologies, add value and then work creatively to find the best commercialisation route. We are very proud to be able to catalyse the development of this uniquely derived natural pesticide in collaboration with partners around the world.'
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