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AgroSpheres Awarded $225K Grant from NSF

Monday, August 12, 2019  
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AgroSpheres, Inc. has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant for 225,000 to collaborate with North Carolina State University and conduct research and development (R&D) work on an RNAi biological insecticide for the western flower thrips.

Western flower thrips are one of the most economically devastating insect pests across the globe. Not only does their feeding cause significant crop damage, thrips also serve as vectors for over seven different destructive plant viruses. Traditional chemical methods for control have proven ineffective because western flower thrips have acquired resistance to over 30 different synthetic pesticides. To reduce losses incurred by thrips and provide an affordable and safe solution to farmers, AgroSpheres has teamed up with experts, Dr. Dorith Rotenberg and Dr. Anna Whitfield, to develop a novel biopesticide engineered to target western flower thrips through RNA interference.

“NSF is proud to support the technology of the future by thinking beyond incremental developments and funding the most creative, impactful ideas across all markets and areas of science and engineering,” said Andrea Belz, Division Director of the Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships at NSF. “With the support of our research funds, any deep technology startup or small business can guide basic science into meaningful solutions that address tremendous needs.”

“AgroSpheres is motivated by the vote of confidence from the NSF to develop the next generation of crop protection products, said Ameer Shakeel,” Chief Technology Officer at AgroSpheres. “We believe we have a transformative technology for the cost-effective synthesis and delivery of biological pesticides.” The NC State team is excited to start their collaboration with AgroSpheres. “We are looking forward to applying our basic knowledge of western flower thrips biology to test AgroSpheres’ novel RNAi delivery method to control this important crop pest and virus vector,” says Dorith Rotenberg, Associate Professor in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology. She adds, “We see the potential of this innovation to specifically kill thrips without harming non-targeted organisms.”

Once a small business is awarded a Phase I SBIR/STTR grant (up to $225,000), it becomes eligible to apply for a Phase II grant (up to $750,000). Small businesses with Phase II grants are eligible to receive up to $500,000 in additional matching funds with qualifying third-party investment or sales.

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