Issue Date: January 16, 2012
ACS Award for Team Innovation
Sponsored by ACS Corporation Associates
When a group of scientists with Dow AgroSciences proposed a new naturally derived insecticide molecule—spinetoram—to the Environmental Protection Agency in 2004, agency officials liked what they saw and provided the industry team with guidance on expediting registration for the compound as a reduced-risk pesticide.
Cutting the time from research to commercialization was a good deal for Dow AgroSciences and for EPA. Dow AgroSciences gained a much-improved cash flow for income generated from sales of the product by shortening the time before revenues came in, and EPA could quickly provide the agricultural market with a new insecticide that has a favorable environmental profile, explains Don E. Kelley, Dow AgroSciences’ global products manager for insecticides, who is also an agronomist and a University of Arkansas graduate.
However, the compressed time frame, he notes, also created a host of “logistical nightmares” by overlapping R&D demands in chemistry and biology with manufacturing and supply-chain planning for production, as well as efforts to explore and reach the potential market for this new insecticide.
But in 2007, three years after the EPA meeting, the Dow AgroSciences team was successful in bringing the insecticide to market. In the words of one of the nominators for the award: Team members worked seamlessly across disciplines, playing a critical role in the development and speed to market for spinetoram, an innovative insecticide from Dow AgroSciences.
Spinetoram is a modification of an earlier Dow AgroSciences insecticide, spinosad. The two compounds belong to the spinosyn family of products and share a similar derivation, resulting from the fermentation of a natural soil organism that was found to be highly toxic to specific insects. Spinosad, a certified organic insecticide, provides control of many insects; spinetoram provides control of a much broader spectrum of insects.
Both insecticides won EPA Green Chemistry awards: spinosad in 1999 and spinetoram in 2008. In announcing the green chemistry award for spinetoram, EPA noted that the compound’s use rate is one-tenth that of conventional insecticides. The insecticide is also less persistent in the environment and has lower toxicity for nontarget species. The agency pointed to spinetoram’s lower risk of oral toxicity to mammals, which reduces the risk of public exposure throughout the supply chain—manufacturing, transportation, and application.
The team’s goal, Kelley explains, was to improve on spinosad’s attributes and product characteristics with better insect control and a broader spectrum, as well as to reach market segments that spinosad could not.
“It is a more useful product in the marketplace, but it still maintains those green chemistry attributes,” he says.
Because spinetoram was synthesized to improve spinosad’s duration in the field and reduce its sensitivity to sunlight, spinetoram is not considered organic, limiting some applications. But the modifications make spinetoram suitable for a broader range of insects and crop applications, particularly tree fruits, nuts, and vegetables. It is marketed under two brands: Radiant, a liquid suspension concentrate formulation, and Delegate, a water-dispersible granular formulation. Kelley estimates that the product is registered on some 290 crops, and its use rate is about half as much product per acre as spinosad. Its global market is estimated to be some $5 billion annually.
The team approach worked well for Dow AgroSciences, Kelley says. In the crunch to develop the new insecticide, “we learned to get in early and talk to EPA, the Department of Agriculture, and other stakeholders and see what they are looking for. Early discussions can be important,” Kelley adds. “We hope that through this effort we can leverage our experience when bringing other new molecules forward—be they insecticides, fungicides, or new products in general.”
The team was made up of four groups within Dow AgroSciences, spanning biology, commercialization, manufacturing, and regulatory compliance expertise.
Members include Kelley, 59, (commercialization); James E. Dripps, 53, an entomologist from Pennsylvania State University and team research leader (biology); Ray E. Boucher, 53, a chemistry graduate of Kansas State University (manufacturing); and Nick D. Simmons, 49, a chemistry graduate of Bristol University, in England (regulatory compliance).
The team will present the award address before the ACS Division of Agrochemicals.
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