TechAccel Invests in New Class of Antifungal Technology

Second “Path to Commercialization” Grant Awarded to Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

KANSAS CITY, Mo.—November 16, 2017—TechAccel, the Kansas City-based technology and venture development company, today announced it has awarded a second grant under its “Path to Commercialization” program at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, one of the world’s largest independent plant science institutes, located in St. Louis, MO.

The grant supports the development of a new class of antimicrobial peptides to fight fungal diseases in crops. Fungal pathogens are responsible for an estimated one third of all crop losses globally. Additionally, fungal infections pose a threat to human health, especially for people with compromised immune systems.

“Safe and effective antifungal agents are desperately needed in agriculture and medicine,” said Michael Helmstetter, Ph.D., president and chief executive of TechAccel. “That’s why we are so excited to support Dr. Dilip Shah’s development of highly specific antifungal peptides.”

Dr. Shah, research associate member and principal investigator at the Danforth Center, is studying the promising new agents, known as nodule-specific cysteine-rich (NCR) peptides. The new funding enables development of more potent forms of the peptides, a step toward more disease-resistant crops or antifungal sprays that can be deployed directly onto crops.

Soy field affected by sudden death syndrome (Fusarium virguliforme) is one example where peptide technology might supplant the use of chemical fungicides. Credit: David Holshouser and Hillary Mehl, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University.

“Fungal pathogens represent a major challenge in agriculture,” said James Carrington, Ph.D., president of the Danforth Center. “There are more than 20,000 disease-causing species that can spread rapidly and cause significant crop loss. Fungi are also developing resistance to commonly used chemical fungicides, and there is a demand for safer and more environmentally friendly solutions. We believe these peptides could be an important tool to protect crop yields.”

Important fungal diseases include rice blast, soybean Asian rust, wheat stem and stripe rusts, and Fusarium wilt. Fungal infections in humans are receiving increased attention as antifungal drug resistance is a growing public health problem.

TechAccel and the Danforth Center announced the “Path to Commercialization” Program in December 2016 as part of a strategic relationship. The first project under the program, announced in August, trials a unique sprayable biopesticide for the Diamondback moth. TechAccel, which also leases office space at the Danforth Center, is exploring additional research with the potential to advance toward commercial feasibility.

About TechAccel
TechAccel, LLC, was founded in 2014 as a first-of-its-kind technology and venture development company in the agriculture and animal health sectors. TechAccel sources, invests in and acquires early-stage innovations. Through collaborations with universities and research institutions, TechAccel conducts advancement and de-risking research and development to ready technologies for commercialization. For more information, visit www.TechAccel.net. Follow us on Twitter at @Tech_Accel.

About The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Founded in 1998, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is a not-for-profit research institute with a mission to improve the human condition through plant science. Research, education and outreach aim to have impact at the nexus of food security and the environment, and position the St. Louis region as a world center for plant science. The Center’s work is funded through competitive grants from many sources, including the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. To keep up to date with Danforth Center’s current operations and areas of research, please visit, www.danforthcenter.org, featuring information on Center scientists, news and the “Roots & Shoots” blog. Follow us on Twitter at @DanforthCenter.

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