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STTR Phase I: Bioparticle delivery of dsRNA: A novel pest management solution for control of Western flower thrips

Award Information
Agency: National Science Foundation
Branch: N/A
Contract: 1913245
Agency Tracking Number: 1913245
Amount: $225,000.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: STTR
Solicitation Topic Code: BT
Solicitation Number: N/A
Solicitation Year: 2018
Award Year: 2019
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2019-07-01
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2020-06-30
Small Business Information
1180 Seminole Trail Suite 100
Charlottesville, VA 22901
United States
DUNS: 080467477
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 Ameer Shakeel
 (571) 465-6184
Business Contact
 Ameer Shakeel
Phone: (571) 465-6184
Research Institution
 North Carolina State University
 Dorith H Rotenberg
2701 Sullivan DR STE 240
Raleigh, NC 27695
United States

 Nonprofit College or University

The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) project is to develop a targeted biological pesticide for control of the western flower thrips to reduce the impact of one of the most economically devastating agricultural pests. Thrips are a global agricultural pest that carry a family of viruses that can infect more than 1,000 species of plants including a wide variety of vegetable, fruit, and nut crops, causing an estimated $1 billion in losses each year around the world. Traditional chemical methods for control have proven ineffective and the western flower thrips has acquired resistance to over 30 different synthetic pesticides worldwide. The same is true for over 500 species of insects and mites, and several billion dollars worth of crops are lost each year due to damage caused by resistant pests. Widespread adoption of an alternative to synthetic pesticides will drastically reduce the indirect economic costs of pesticide use, estimated in one study at $10B in environmental and societal costs in the United States each year, and save up to a billion dollars in direct costs by reducing the impact of destructive pests. This STTR Phase I project proposes to develop a novel biopesticide specifically engineered to target the western flower thrips that can be applied to host plants through a single spray application. In Phase I, the goal is to demonstrate proof-of-principle for using a proprietary bioparticle engineering platform to develop the biopesticide. The technical hurdles that will be addressed include 1) demonstrating that the bioparticle can be ingested by thrips, 2) showing that delivery of the biopesticide to the thrips gut is sufficient to reduce fitness, and 3) identifying the optimal bioparticle formulation for further testing. The first technical objective will focus on the engineering and characterization of a variety of bioparticles that will be tested for efficacy in thrips in Technical Objective 2. Successful completion of this project will provide a prototype biopesticide with a demonstrated effect on the fitness of the western flower thrips. With this prototype, the plan is to proceed to greenhouse and small field trials to inform further product refinement prior to large scale field testing. Successful completion of this project will not only enable the development of a thrips biocide but will provide proof-of-concept for adapting such bioparticle-based biopesticides to target a range of additional insect pests. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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