Development and exploitation of a bioactives-free technology for tackling fungal threats to food security, goods and health

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: School of Life Sciences

Abstract

Fungi cause diverse, serious societal and economic problems in the UK and globally. Besides fatal human diseases, fungi devastate food crops and spoil valuable products and materials, spawning antifungals/fungicides industries worth approximately $30Bn globally. In previous BBSRC funded work, we have discovered synergistic fungicide combinations against a novel molecular target and also produced new understanding of preservative action against spoilage fungi. Although such advances enable reduced usage of chemical actives, regulatory barriers are increasingly restricting the take up of technologies that still rely on bioactive agents, while spread of resistance exacerbates this problem. Consequently, potential bioactives-free technologies for combatting fungi are highly attractive to the industry. To meet this need, we have been developing an innovative approach: passive blocking of fungal attachment to surfaces, using (meth)acrylate polymers. A similar approach against bacterial pathogens now has CE mark as a catheter coating. We have shown that different polymers are effective in resisting fungi compared with bacteria and, supported by industry feedback, our focus here is on tackling broader socio-economic impacts of fungi. These include impacts on food-, health- and materials-security. We have identified polymers resisting attachment by diverse fungi, including plant pathogens; there is commercial precedent for spray-coating polymer formulations to crops, but those relied on added agrichemicals for their fungal control activity. Our recent discussions with companies focused on different market needs for fungal control has highlighted key, inter-disciplinary challenges for us to address (e.g., spectra of target fungi, optimisation of material properties of hit polymers), so that they can pursue their interest in our patent-protected technology. The aim of this proposal is to achieve that, aligned with commercial milestones, in order to progress to a licensing deal with an industrial partner.

Publications

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