Entrepreneur of the Year - Joint Winner
Professor Shireen Davies, Institute of Molecular, Cell & Systems Biology
Professor Shireen Davies from the Institute of Molecular, Cell & Systems Biology is championing a revolution in the creation of novel next generation green insecticides. Her vision is to become the world-leading provider of peptide-based bioinsecticides to control economically important insect crop pests towards more sustainable agriculture and food security.
In May 2020, Professor Davies, Professor Julian Dow and others formed the University of Glasgow spinout, SOLASTA Bio, a specialist green insecticides company which is amongst the first of its kind globally. This company is built upon a foundation of fundamental research, with significant BBSRC Responsive Mode funding and a major multi-partner European project. The formation of the company represents the culmination of a 4-year translational research journey, taking fundamental research directly into the applied and commercial sphere.
Chemical pesticides have been used for decades to control insect pests that attack food crops and transmit infectious diseases. But this comes at a cost. The toxic substances they contain may harm health and the environment, while some pests can survive and grow resistant to the chemicals. An estimated 500 insect species have developed this ability over the past 50 years, costing US agriculture alone about $10 billion each year.
The NEUROSTRESSPEP project created chemicals similar to insects’ natural peptides, which can now be used to develop ‘green’ pesticides. These biopesticides target pest insects while protecting beneficial and pollinator species and can potentially be used in agriculture, horticulture and even forestry without causing harm to the environment and consumers.
The project outcome, together with additional BBSRC funding, produced a scalable discovery and design process with considerable commercial potential in the rapidly growing market for new peptide-based insecticides.
Professor Davies has subsequently been awarded a prestigious BBSRC-funded Royal Society of Enterprise Fellowship which enables recipients to develop the commercial potential of their research and hone new business skills.
Shireen’s determination, passion and entrepreneurial skills have helped lay the foundations of the new company whilst juggling her research career.