PREtec (Plant Response Elicitor technology) is our core new technology. We have built substantial assets in PREtec, with over 40 patent applications in this area to date.
Inspired by natural proteins found in plants and plant pathogens. We are able to identify families of peptides (short chains of amino acids) that can provide various agronomic benefits for farmers. We have so far characterised four third-generation (“3G”) peptide platforms from our research, three of which we have launched with partners. Each platform consists of a family of related peptide designs, all covered by extensive patent filings. In addition, we have a fourth generation or 4G platform, which applies DNA or RNA forms of PREtec for various genetic uses in agriculture and plant breeding.
Within each 3G platform, we are able to modify the peptide sequence in order to customise the performance of peptides in various ways. For example, to make them better at inducing resistance to pests and diseases in plants, to improve the tolerance of plants to drought or to accelerate root growth. Furthermore, we can optimise the physical and chemical stability of peptides, so that they are stable in mixtures with liquid agrochemicals.
PREtec works by inducing natural defensive and metabolic responses in crop plants so that they suffer less harm from the usual stresses (like drought or disease) that they face during a growing season. This is achieved by designing short proteins (peptides) that mimic the active sites of larger naturally occurring proteins to which plants are evolved to respond defensively.
These peptides are generally accepted as being safe to handle and have negligible toxicity. They do not persist on the plant after application and rapidly degrade in the environment leaving no residues. For these reasons, PREtec peptides should be generally easier, cheaper and quicker to register for commercial use than typical agricultural chemicals
Variations on peptide structures are patentable and, within each of these “platforms”, it is possible to design and make a very large number of closely related peptide variants. Our first proprietary design platform, Innatus 3G, was introduced to partners in 2014–2015. In 2016, we presented the next two platforms – T-Rex 3G and Y-Max 3G. We continue to work on further patentable designs, which will be launched in due course.
Patent filings cover the various PREtec peptide designs and their use in all agricultural applications. The patent filings also include the use of the genes that code for those peptides (what we call 4G), for example in crops bred to display increased defensive responses to diseases.