Bayer CropScience and SentiSearch, Inc. have entered into a two-year research agreement to cooperate in the identification of new molecules targeting odorant receptors in insects. The aim of this collaboration, which also involves arrangements with Columbia University and Rockefeller University, is to develop innovative solutions 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 were not disclosed.
Bayer CropScience will contribute to this project its extensive library of compounds, screening capabilities and its experience in chemical synthesis and the development of insecticides. In turn, SentiSearch and the Universities will together provide proprietary assay technologies and knowledge in the field of chemoreception in insects. This will enable Bayer CropScience to use these assays to identify compounds which could modify the activity of insect odor receptors. In addition to possible benefits in the field of public health, these activities could also result in innovative products with a new mode of action capable of preventing damage to agricultural crops caused by insects. Bayer CropScience will determine whether compounds successfully identified will be developed for agricultural applications.
This project will build on the groundbreaking research carried out by Drs. Richard Axel and Leslie Vosshall, who discovered chemosensory receptors that are responsible for odor perception. Various insect behaviors 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 odors to locate their hosts. The aim is for the new molecules to block the relevant receptors, which would prevent the insect from perceiving human odors. Receptors have also been discovered that are responsible for male courtship behavior and for guiding the deposition of eggs by female insects on their host plants. Professor Axel was awarded the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his groundbreaking studies on olfactory perception.
“Bayer CropScience is the market leader in vector control in the public health and agricultural settings, including animal health,” says Dr. Alexander Klausener, Head of Research at Bayer CropScience. “Our activities include playing a significant role in the prevention of malaria. This new cooperation with leading U.S. scientists Nobel Laureate Professor Richard Axel from Columbia University and Professor Leslie Vosshall from Rockefeller University will give us access to a new and innovative approach to insect control. This, in turn, will present us with an opportunity to expand our leading position in this field.”