AgroSpheres, Inc. has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant for $999,653 to progress its R&D collaboration with the University of Tennessee on an RNAi biological insecticide targeting fall armyworm (FAW). Larvae of FAW are one of the most economically devastating insect pests in its native region of the tropical Americas, and is quickly becoming a global superpest threatening food security worldwide. The Phase II award from the NSF represents confidence in results demonstrating efficient RNAi in FAW and the capability of the proprietary technology platform to power in field delivery.
The FAW team at the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture is led by Dr. Juan Luis Jurat-Fuentes, a Professor in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology with more than a decade of expertise on controlling FAW with insecticidal proteins and developing RNAi against this pest. The team is enthusiastic to continue its exciting collaboration with AgroSpheres. “We are looking forward to applying our expertise on fall armyworm to further test AgroSpheres’ novel AgriCell RNAi production and delivery method to control this important crop pest,” Dr. Jurat-Fuentes says. He adds, “We have seen unprecedented RNAi activity against fall armyworm through testing the AgriCell platform in replicated lab trials and are excited to continue to the greenhouse and the field.”
“We are motivated by the vote of confidence from the NSF to develop the next generation of crop protection products, ” said Ameer Shakeel, Founder and Chief Technology Officer at AgroSpheres. “We believe we have a transformative technology for the cost-effective synthesis and delivery of RNA which has been further enhanced by integrating Orion’s Motif Fingerprinting.”
The NSF SBIR Phase II grant follows two recent grant awards to AgroSpheres. The first is from the Center for Innovative Technology’s inaugural Commonwealth Commercialization Fund (CCF) for $100,000 to support AgroSpheres’ commercial efforts. The second is from the USDA SBIR Phase I program $100,000 to fund the replacement of microplastics and petroleums in pesticide formulations. AgroSpheres is grateful for the support of the state and federal institutions.