Alta. firm funded for work on pulse treatment

An Edmonton biotech company has picked up federal funding for development work on an antifungal, antibacterial silver compound, toward approval for its use on pulse crops.

Innovotech announced in December it will get $154,000 over two years from the federal Growing Canadian Agri-Innovations program for its work on Agress, a compound targeting bacterial and fungal pathogens.

The company says it’s already filed for regulatory approval with Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for Agress’ use on beans, soybeans and other pulse crops.

The grant is to go toward work on improvement of dry bean yield, disease resistance and seed quality, the company said.

Syngenta Crop Protection Canada will also work with Innovotech on the commercial development of the product, the company said in its recent release.

“Projects such as Innovotech’s have the potential to contribute significantly to the promotion of Canada’s global status in the pulse export market,” Innovotech CEO Ken Boutilier said in the same release.

Agress, its developers said, is unique in that it works against both bacterial and fungal infestations. It also carries a low environmental impact, the company said, as the amount of silver on treated seed is less than the background levels already seen in soils and is not taken up into the bean plant.

The company said it also plans to seek an expanded label for Agress for treatment of canola, corn and wheat diseases.

Innovotech, formed in 2004 from the University of Calgary’s Biofilm Research Group, also developed and is marketing a diagnostic tool, bioFilm PA, to detect antibiotic-resistant diseases in people.

The federal funding is to flow through the Growing Canadian Agri-Innovations program’s Canadian Agri-Science Clusters Initiative, for which applicants had until Jan. 31, 2010 to submit proposals.

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