Bayer Crop Science starts insect control research project
Monheim /West Palm Beach – Bayer CropScience and SentiSearch, Inc. have entered into a two-year research agreement to cooperate in the identification of new molecules targeting odourant receptors in insects. The aim of the collaboration is to improve control of malaria and dengue fever in countries where these diseases are endemic. SentiSearch will receive an upfront license fee, followed by milestone payments and royalties on sales. Further financial terms have not been disclosed. Bayer CropScience will contribute its compound libraries, screening capabilities and know-how in chemical synthesis and in the development of insecticides. Bayer CropScience will use assays provided by SentiSearch, Rockefeller and Columbia universities to identify compounds that could modify the activity of insect odour receptors. Bayer has said the resulting products could also be used to prevent insect damage to agricultural crops. Bayer CropScience will determine whether successfully identified compounds will be developed for agricultural applications. The project will build on the know-how of Richard Axel and Leslie Vosshall, who discovered chemosensory receptors responsible for odour perception. Various insect behaviours are guided by the sense of smell, including the ability to locate food, humans, animals, and mating partners. Mosquitoes, which transmit dangerous tropical diseases to humans, use the CO2 content of exhaled air and other host odours to locate their hosts. The aim is for the new molecules to block the relevant receptors, which would prevent the insect from perceiving human odours. Receptors have also been discovered that are responsible for male courtship behaviour and for guiding the deposition of eggs on host plants by female insects. Professor Axel was awarded the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his groundbreaking studies on olfactory perception.