Jun 16, 2020
EPA’s Green Chemistry Challenge Award presented to Vestaron

Durham, North Carolina-based Vestaron Corp.’s bioinsecticide Spear has earned recognition from the Environmental Protection Agency via its Green Chemistry Challenge Awards Program. 

According to a news release, since 1996, the EPA in partnership with the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute has awarded more than 100 winners for technologies that incorporate the principles of green chemistry design into chemical design, manufacture and use.

Spear bioinsecticide was recognized in the Focus Area of “The Design of Greener Chemicals” within the extremely competitive Small Business Division. Submitting the application was Robert M. Kennedy, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer for Vestaron.

“We are pleased and honored to be recognized for Vestaron’s accomplishments in developing and commercializing the active ingredient in Spear bioinsecticide. For years, the use of peptide technology for pest control has been a desired but elusive goal of the crop protection industry,” Kennedy said. “The capable and innovative Vestaron team and its investor backers have made Spear a commercially viable tool for growers.”

There have been 13 Green Chemistry Award winners in the Agriculture and Agrochemicals > Pesticides industry space since 1996. Of these winners, five were new active ingredients for insect pest management: Diacylhydrazines (1998); Spinosad (1999); Sentricon (2000); Messenger (2001); and Spinetoram (2008). Spear is the first insecticide using a novel active ingredient to be honored in 12 years.

On June 16, Kennedy presents “Spear Biopesticide: A Pioneering Peptide Meeting the Efficacy Demands of Synthetics and Delivering the Safety Profile Expected from Biologics” during the 2020 Green Chemistry & Engineering Virtual Conference, available for viewing free of charge by registering at https://www.gcande.org/register/

Key points from the award application for Spear bioinsecticide

Spear bioinsecticide is currently available in two products, Spear-T for contact control of smaller, soft-bodied insects and Spear-Lep for control of lepidopteran larvae in high-value field crops. It is the first line of insecticides using the new chemical class of cysteine rich peptides.

Vestaron has surmounted three key hurdles that hindered previous efforts in peptide insecticide development: 1) development of cost-efficient manufacturing; 2) formulation for oral availability in pests; and 3) EPA regulatory approval.

Spear operates by a new mode of action, recognized by a scientific panel with a new neuromuscular IRAC code (Group 32), that immediately addresses insecticide resistance to current synthetic insecticides. The peptide is active against a broad range of insect orders including Diptera, Coleoptera, Lepidoptera and Orthoptera. 

As required by the EPA, Spear was subjected to acute toxicological tests to confirm both effectiveness as an insecticide and safety to non-target organisms, including adult honey bees (and later to European Union protocols backed by EPA establishing harmlessness to larval honeybees). This validates Spear’s role as an alternative to insecticides like the neonicotinoids that are increasingly subject to restrictions on treating flowering plants.

Toxicology research allowed the EPA to grant Spear an exemption from a residue tolerance with the statutory minimum for restricted-entry time and pre-harvest interval for workers.

Spear alone (Spear-T) against smaller soft-bodied insects (mites, thrips, whiteflies) or Spear in combination with the appropriate Bt (Spear-Lep) continues to show comparable performance to the frontline synthetic chemicals launched in the last decade.

Vestaron is a company committed to providing growers with safe, effective, novel chemistries that address proven targets but overcome existing resistance issues. Vestaron is initially focused on a class of peptides that kills insect pests efficiently, but is safe for humans, beneficial insects, and the environment.

As part of this, the company has developed a proprietary platform for peptide optimization and fermentation-based peptide production that will allow it to develop a wide variety of biological crop protection solutions. Vestaron is the winner of the inaugural 2015 Bernard Blum Award for novel biocontrol solutions and a 2020 THRIVE Top 50 Growth-Stage honoree.

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