The Belgium-based company AgroSavfe has raised a Series C round of €35M to develop an environmentally friendly crop pesticide inspired by llama antibodies.
AgroSavfe will use the funds to develop and manufacture its lead protein fungicide on a commercial scale. The company aims to get approval from the US Environmental Protection Agency and launch the pesticide in the US by 2022.
AgroSavfe’s pesticides are proteins inspired by llama antibodies. These proteins can be engineered to target fungal crop diseases such as the wine grape fungus Botrytis cinerea without harming benign organisms, making the pesticides an environmentally friendly alternative to chemical treatments. According to field trials, combining AgroSavfe’s lead fungicide with traditional treatments of strawberry crops reduced losses by 70% and also cut chemical pollution by 40%.
This Series C round is a major step up for AgroSavfe. The biotech’s last fundraise was a Series B round, which raised €11M in 2017.
AgroSavfe was spun out from the Ghent-based Vlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie (VIB) in 2013. Its antibody technology is very similar to another VIB spinout, Ablynx, whose llama-inspired ‘nanobody’ drug was approved by the EMA for the treatment of a rare blood disorder in 2018.
Biotechnology is showing big potential for pesticide development in Europe, where a number of chemical antifungal treatments such as chlorothalonil have been banned due to concerns over their effect on wildlife. For example, the Swiss biotech Agrosustain is developing environmentally friendly antifungals derived from mold-resistant plants.
Some companies are even exploring the use of microbes as pesticides, such as the Belgian biotech Aphea.Bio and French company Amoéba. Bayer recently launched the Israeli biotech Ecophage, which is developing bacteria-hunting viruses called bacteriophages to treat crop diseases.