There is an urgent need for improved eco-friendly pesticidal agents for crop protection. In the US the agricultural industry loses $20 to $30 billion to plant pests and diseases per year (IBIS World Industry Report 32532, 2012). 

Researchers from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) at The University of Queensland (UQ) have been pioneers in the discovery, applications and bio-engineering of a novel class of small, cyclic peptides called cyclotides. Cyclotides are bioactive plant derived proteins that are widely reported as plant defence agents following the discovery of their activity against insect, nematode, and microbial pests1. The exceptional stability of cyclotides has also attracted attention as potential templates for peptide-based pesticidal and pharmaceutical agent design applications. Grafting, or other cyclotide modifications, may be used to enhance the natural function, such as insecticidal, nematocidal or molluscicidal activity, of cyclotides against their biological target.

The laboratory of Professor Craik at the IMB has built a portfolio of intellectual property relating to platform technologies for the creation of improved or modified cyclotides and expression of cyclotides in plants. Using these technologies there is potential to develop crops that are resistant to a range of plant pests and pathogens.