The latest [CSIRO] biotech news letter has the below item re a promising new insect pest management tactic involving use of synthetic juvenile hormones. Note the comment toward the end that what makes the breakthrough exciting is that by using biotech to produce a hybrid juvenile hormone, the technology becomes patentable, and hence exploitable. One might conclude that the developers, or at least the commentators, believe that patentability is more important than efficacy, safety or cost.
One wonders how many simple, relatively safer solutions have been shelved because of lack of IPRs in recent years.
INSECTICIDES TO TARGET INSECT LIFE CYCLE
[From Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Press Release] A new generation of chemical pesticides will disrupt the life cycle of insects, preventing them from reaching their normal adult form. The pesticides have been developed by a team of scientists from CSIRO and the US who have cloned two proteins that regulate the level of insect juvenile hormone. According CSIRO, the pesticides attack insect juvenile hormone, which has no equivalent in higher animals, they will be harmless to vertebrate animals and humans. Two key proteins called juvenile hormone esterase (JHE) and juvenile hormone binding protein (JHBP) control the level of juvenile hormone. Juvenile hormone in turn regulates the passage of juvenile insects through their various moults to become adults. "The level of this hormone is crucial in development where it controls the process of metamorphosis," says Dr. Tony Zera of the University of Nebraska. "In insects such as locusts, juvenile hormone is also one of the factors that controls the switch between their sedentary stage and their migratory stage, a flight stage in their life cycle during which they are a moving target and much harder to control." "In many insects which have different adult forms specialized for different functions, the hormone also determines which of these adult forms they become," says Dr. Zera. "Alterations to JHE and JHBP disrupt development and in the case of insects like crickets and grasshoppers can prevent commencement of the migratory phase. The important step from the point of view of commercial application has been the cloning of JHE and JHBP in CSIRO Entomology's biotechnology program. This means that we can now apply for patents for the use of these genes in the search for new, safer chemical insecticides." Dr. John Oakeshott, leader of CSIRO Entomology's biotechnology program, says that his research team has cloned the genes producing JHE and JHBP from several different insects. "We can now format these proteins in high speed screening systems to scan libraries of natural and synthetic chemicals for molecules that would disrupt the function of the proteins and give us new candidates for chemical insecticides," he says.