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Enko partners with Syngenta to develop new pest management solutions

Enko aims to apply its pharma innovations to crops.

Enko has announced a multiyear partnership with Syngenta Crop Protection to design safe and sustainable solutions to the resistant pests and novel diseases farmers are fighting across the world, said company officials in a news release.  

Currently, it takes 10 to 12 years on average for scientists to discover and companies to develop new crop protection products. By applying proven pharma innovations to plants, Enko officials say this can cut discovery time in half. 

Farmers today face tremendous challenges to their crops, and climate change is only intensifying these threats, say Enko officials.  Over 600 pests worldwide have developed resistance  to current crop protection methods, representing $10 billion of losses in the United States alone, say Enko officials. 

Enko’s target-based approach combines novel drug discovery technologies like DNA-encoded libraries with machine learning and structural biology to dramatically improve the scale and speed of crop protection R&D, say Enko officials. The approach allows scientists to screen more than 120 billion compounds simultaneously to identify molecules that bind like a lock and key to specific enzyme variants in pests. These highly selective molecules are more effective in lower quantities and do not impact similar enzyme variants in other organisms, which establishes safety guardrails from the first step of discovery, say company officials. 

“Emerging threats to crop health can only be solved by evolving our approach to designing products,” said Jacqueline Heard, CEO of Enko, in a company news release. “Collaborating with multinational agricultural companies on more selective and iterative product processes can push the industry forward. Together, we will use intentionality and precision to create novel crop health solutions that are both sustainable and effective, rather than one or the other.”

Novel Modes of Action

Enko is focused on uncovering novel modes of action that eliminate pests through new pathways and combat resistance, say company officials. This R&D model could represent a major step forward in efficiency and success rates in the development process, while ensuring safety for humans and the environment, they add. 

“The agrochemicals industry is ready to restart innovation for farm chemistry and give growers more safe, effective options to protect their fields,” said David Jones, Enko commercial advisory board chair. “By pulling inspiration from pharma, targeted R&D practices can help us develop better products without investing many hundreds of millions of dollars. Essential crop health products should be affordable and contribute to food security worldwide.”

Founded in 2017 and led by a team of scientists, entrepreneurs, and agriculture industry veterans, Enko is backed by investors including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Anterra Capital, Finistere Ventures, Novalis LifeSciences, Germin8 Ventures, TO Ventures Food, and Rabo Food & Agri Innovation Fund. Enko is headquartered in Mystic, Connecticut.

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