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close up of fall armyworm on leaf

GreenLight Biosciences and Queensland University of Technology partner to tackle destructive fall armyworm using RNA

● GreenLight Biosciences and Queensland University of Technology (QUT) partner to create a solution for fall armyworm


● Fall armyworm is one of the most destructive insect pests on the planet, causing more than US$2 billion in annual crop loss worldwide


● The Australian government has been searching for a more environmentally-friendly solution to fall armyworm and is supporting the partnership with a AUD$400,000 grant

BOSTON, MA, and BRISBANE, Australia, October 5, 2022—Researchers from Boston’s GreenLight Biosciences and the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane, Australia, have announced an agreement to develop a solution to fall armyworm, which causes more than US$2 billion in annual global crop loss.

The partnership includes an Australian government grant to QUT of more than AUD$400,000  from the Australian Research Council. It brings together the teams of two preeminent researchers, Dr. Julia Bally and Professor Peter Waterhouse from the QUT Centre for Agriculture and the Bioeconomy, and GreenLight’s Plant Health research and development team.

The partnership aims to develop a solution for fall armyworm, a pest of national priority in Australia. It is also a point of emphasis that the project delivers environmentally-friendly crop protection tools against fall armyworm.

GreenLight’s plant health division is working on producing RNA-based solutions for a variety of fungi and insects that cause massive food loss and crop damage annually. In lab tests and field trials, GreenLight’s RNA-based solutions leave low or no residues.

Dr. Bally said previous collaboration on fall armyworm with GreenLight had been important to securing the grant from the Australian Research Council this year.

“We are excited to work with GreenLight Biosciences on this solution to armyworm,” she said. “We believe furthering our partnership will generate comprehensive new technologies to fight against one of the most damaging global crop pests and greatly improve Australian agritech capacity and strengthen international collaborations.”

GreenLight’s Vice President of Plant Health R&D Ron Flannagan said: “Fall armyworm has recently invaded Australia and devastates many crops, including sorghum and cotton. Our RNA platform allows us to develop solutions faster and more efficiently than was previously possible. So we are delighted to partner with QUT to accelerate our work targeting the fall armyworm with a sustainable solution.”

The project will begin with lab studies and advance to greenhouse and field trials.

“We believe this research will provide significant benefits, such as added security for Australia’s most important agricultural crops and regions and global food production,” Dr. Bally said.

About GreenLight Biosciences

GreenLight Biosciences aims to address some of the world’s biggest problems by delivering on the full potential of RNA for human health and agriculture. Our RNA platform allows us to research, design, and manufacture for human, animal, and plant health. In human health, this includes messenger RNA vaccines and therapeutics. In agriculture, this includes RNA to protect honeybees and a range of crops. The company’s platform is protected by numerous patents. GreenLight’s human health product candidates are in the pre-clinical stage, and its product candidates for the agriculture market are in the early stages of development or regulatory review. GreenLight is a public benefit corporation that trades under the ticker GRNA on Nasdaq. For more information, visit https://www.greenlightbiosciences.com/

Press contact:

David Pesci

Head of Media Relations

[email protected]

For press, email: [email protected]

For investors, email: [email protected]

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2022 GreenLight work published in peer-reviewed academic journals

We will continue to update this list as more research is published throughout the year. Our team has at least three papers in the pipeline for publication this year.

Novel Mobile Phase to Control Charge States and Metal Adducts in the LC/MS for mRNA Characterization Assays – American Chemical Society, 7/26/22

Editorial: New Applications of Insecticidal RNAi – Sec. Pest Management, 5/27/22

Toxicity of a novel dsRNA-based insecticide to the Colorado potato beetle in laboratory and field trials – Pest Management Science, 2/15/22

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International crop network validates ledprona as a new Mode of Action group

An effective and novel pest-management solution with low-to-no residues aimed at the Colorado potato beetle (CPB) has received validation as a new mode of action (MoA) by the Insecticide Resistance Action Committee.

Ledprona, the active ingredient in GreenLight’s CalanthaTM product, was approved as a new mode of action in the recent winter meeting of IRAC, an international association of crop-protection companies that focuses on resistance management and sustainable agriculture.

The first foliar-applied, dsRNA-based bioinsecticide that provides effective control of CPB, CalanthaTM is expected to be registered in the United States this year. The Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) ravages plants like potatoes and eggplant and accounts for more than $500 million in annual crop loss worldwide. 

For decades, insect resistance to pesticides has challenged growers. Using integrated pest management, which includes rotating insecticides, farmers and agronomists can prolong the useful lifespan of crop treatments. GreenLight’s product is designed to work well with standard growers’ programs to control first- and second-generation Colorado potato beetle infestations.

CalanthaTM has a unique mode of action among chemical and biological insecticides, which will provide farmers with a new tool aimed at protecting potato and eggplant fields from the Colorado potato beetle and support their efforts at resistance management. 

Ledprona, expected to be classified as IRAC MoA group 35 (RNAi-mediated targeted suppressors), specifically targets only CPB, causing the beetle to stop eating and expire from accumulation of its own metabolic waste. Because it is based on double-stranded ribonucleic acid, CalanthaTM degrades quickly in the environment, supports biodiversity, and is an example of the next generation of eco-friendly crop-protection products. 

The Insecticide Resistance Action Committee helps growers around the world by developing mode-of-action classification schemes; identifying new technologies for insect, mite, and tick control products; and  implementing insecticide resistance management strategies for crop protection, plant biotechnology, and public health.

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A tractor harvests in a potato field with farmers working alongside it

ACS book chapter details GreenLight’s progress in the development of dsRNA solutions

Agricultural pests are responsible for more than $100 billion in global crop losses each year. Meanwhile, the amount of arable land for farming is shrinking and traditional pesticides currently in the market are losing their efficacy. 

To secure a sustainable food supply for future generations, GreenLight is working on RNA-based agricultural solutions that are designed to affect the target pest and limit harm to any non-targeted organisms. In Crop Protection Products for Sustainable Agriculture, a new American Chemical Society book about crop protection innovation, a GreenLight team, led by Ken Narva and Thais Rodrigues,  shares the science behind sprayable dsRNA as a new mode of action plant health product that has shown efficacy comparable to market standards and fits integrated pest management systems. 

This product is intended for large-acre control of the Colorado potato beetle and has been shown to be effective at extremely low use rates. A challenge to wide-scale use of dsRNA is the cost-effective production of large quantities for field applications, which GreenLight has overcome with its cell-free process to manufacture high-quality dsRNA faster, on a larger scale, and much more inexpensively than traditional methods.

Successful registration of this solution will pave the way for additional dsRNA products for agricultural pest control, providing growers with biological alternatives to synthetic insecticides.

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