Aug 15, 2013
The research from the co-located AgResearch Structural Biology Laboratory at the IIB represents ground-breaking work of highest academic quality and has immense commercial potential. Already covered by a provisional patent, this work could transform future pest management in agriculture. The research uses state-of-the-art protein structure determination technologies and describes the discovery of a novel protein encapsulation device from a bacterial ‘ABC’ toxin. Published in the world’s leading science magazine Nature (published on-line 4 August 2013), this research shows how nature has evolved a shell-like device that can universally encapsulate, protect and deliver a protein of a certain size into cells. This striking discovery reveals how the so-called ‘ABC’ toxins work, and how they might be used as biopesticides. The concept of a biological Trojan horse that delivers a biological control agent right into the core of a target pest species is at the heart of the patent that AgResearch has secured around this discovery.
Much of the work was carried out by PhD student Jason Busby and supervised by Dr Shaun Lott who has a joint position as a Senior Lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, and is the leader of the AgResearch Structural Biology Laboratory in the IIB. This research project has been funded by a FRST (now MBIE) programme directed by Dr Mark Hurst at AgResearch in Lincoln.
The AgResearch Structural Biology Laboratory has been the first industry co-locator in the IIB and a resident in the Thomas Building research complex for over ten years. Its staff and graduate students enjoy full access to the research infrastructure and services, including the specialist hi-tech equipment and facilities that were essential for the ground breaking discovery described above.