Just over three months since seeing its insecticide products pass US trials, agriculture technology development company Bio-Gene Technology (ASX: BGT) has unveiled a partnership with US-based Clarke Mosquito Control to develop its Flavocide and Qcide products for use in public health mosquito control in North, South and Central America.
Clarke is currently the largest public health mosquito control company in the US.
Despite being founded in 1946 and becoming an industry leader, the company has remained a family-owned private company, with 16 offices in the US, along with locations in Mexico, Brazil, the United Arab Emirates, India and Australia.
Bio-Gene declared that the move was its second evaluation partnership as well as an “important validation” that its products could make an impact in the public health market.
According to Bio-Gene, one of the prime catalysts for the deal being done were Clarke’s internal findings after testing Flavocide and Qcide for around eight months.
In August last year, Bio-Gene signed a material transfer agreement with Clarke to allow initial testing of its products on three significant mosquito species with trials assessing insecticide effectiveness based on knockdown and mortality.
Given the positive initial findings, both companies have agreed to focus on “evolving” formulations for both Flavocide and Qcide, in combination with other active ingredients to determine a potential commercial formulation.
“This partnership represents the second for Bio-Gene, following the stored grain pest control partnership with BASF and GRDC. The market continues to have a significant and growing interest in the natural basis of our technology and the potential to deliver new solutions,” Bio-Gene chief executive officer and managing director Richard Jagger said.
“This agreement with Clarke has the opportunity to expand into other markets and is very valuable for our discussions with other stakeholders including, for example, NGOs and philanthropists to further develop commercialisation opportunities in the public health space,” Mr Jagger added.
As part of a collaborative and multi-developmental strategy, Bio-Gene wants to see its products developed into useful insecticides within multiple niche industries including crop protection, grain storage, public health and consumer products.
To achieve progress, Bio-Gene engaged several international companies and sent out samples of Flavocide and Qcide, while harnessing material transfer agreements, under which each company is tasked with undertaking their own testing programs.
According to the ag-tech company, all development partners have agreed on specific testing protocols and target pests with the company still able to access and discuss ongoing results with each respective R&D division.
Importantly, Bio-Gene’s intellectual property rights have been protected as part of the signed agreements – a total of seven across all four industry niches within which Flavocide and Qcide will ultimately be marketed.
Mitigating the mosquito threat
According to a report published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2017, the worldwide insecticide market in public health is worth close to US$4 billion (A$6.3 billion) per year.
The mosquito threat remains a huge public health issue with more than half of the world’s population currently at risk from vector-borne diseases linked to mosquitos.
Globally, there are more than 200 million cases of malaria every year with over 400,000 people dying from the disease, most of them young children under the age of five.
The WHO also said that the mosquito-borne Zika virus was declared a global health emergency and that death as a result of Dengue Fever has increased 30-fold in the last 50 years – a clear indication that mosquitos remain one of the greatest threats to human health, especially in less developed countries.
Overall, the WHO reported that mosquito-borne diseases such as Malaria, Dengue, Zika collectively claim over 700,000 deaths every year.
A key caveat that could potentially lead to even greater morbidity, greater health costs – but serving up a commercial opportunity for Bio-Gene – is the estimation that the effectiveness of current insecticides is diminishing due to resistance.
“Today’s announcement represents an important milestone in Bio-Gene’s commercialisation strategy and a major advancement for our technology in the very significant public health vertical,” said Mr Jagger.
The news lifted Bio-Gene’s share price by almost 8% up to $0.21 per share in morning trade.