Pheromite Ltd filed a patent for a novel family of pesticide compounds that have the potential to save honeybees. The novel miticide has been shown to be effective against Varroa destructor, the main bee pest, while being safe for the bees. This comes at a time when Varroa mites have shown resistance against every other synthetic treatment available in the market. This has been a 6-year effort for the New Zealand startup Pheromite Ltd that in 2016 was chosen to take part of an incubation program partially funded by Callaghan Innovation in combination with private investment.
The company was funded with one goal, to provide an alternative treatment for beekeepers to combat the Varroa mite. Varroa mites are the main cause of bee colony losses. Beekeepers have been relying on the same pesticide treatments for many decades. Unfortunately, the mites have developed resistance to all of them in different parts of the world. By providing a novel compound with a different mechanism of inhibition, Pheromite Ltd has created a new tool for beekeepers that can break mite resistance to treatment. This has the potential to prevent enormous losses of beehive numbers and economic losses for beekeepers.
Dr Pablo German, founder and Chief Technical Officer commented “I am very proud of what we have achieved with such limited resources and a small team. Pheromite Ltd is truly a ‘garage’ venture producing an innovation typical of big pharma. There is of course much work to do in terms of taking these compounds to market, but we are hopeful that we have created something that can truly make a difference for bees and beekeepers”. Dr John Arabshahi, computational chemist and in charge of Drug Design and Development reflected on the scientific journey “The science presented serious challenges, we adapted our approach and made significant progress. Our success is a testament to the abilities to develop pesticides within New Zealand”. The company could not have achieved this scientific milestone without the support of Callaghan Innovation and AGMARDT, and collaborations with organisations both in New Zealand and overseas.
Apart from Varroa mites, these novel compounds may target other pests of interest such fleas, ticks, and blowflies. They have shown broader activity against other insects and acarids (spiders, mites, and ticks) and have the potential as pesticides for agricultural use.
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Dr Pablo German