By Kristy Dorsey

A Scottish university spin-out has secured a preliminary seven-figure cash injection to further development of environmentally friendly pest control that protects beneficial insects such as bees.

Solasta Bio, headed by chief executive Shireen Davies from Glasgow University, has raised the seed funding from venture capital fund The Yield Lab Europe, the venture capital arm of Social Investment Scotland, the Cambridge Agritech syndicate of private investors, the government-backed UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund (UKI2S) and Scottish Enterprise. The total package of £1.32m includes £350,000 of pre-seed funding provided by UKI2S and Scottish Enterprise in April of this year.

Established in May 2020, the company is based on four years of research into eco-friendly products to meet global demand for new and effective crop protection. Solasta has developed a platform that targets major physiological and behavioural pathways of pest insects in order to kill them while leaving beneficial species unaffected.

The money will allow Solasta to take the testing of its biopesticides out of the laboratory and into real-world settings. It aims to get its first products to market in 2027, around half the time traditionally taken by synthetic pest control products.

HeraldScotland:

“The global market for insecticides has been under intense scrutiny for many years now, with growing demands on food production requiring greater levels of crop protection, counterbalanced by heightened concerns for the environment,” Ms Davies said.

“Through our proprietary technology platform, we have developed a world-leading solution which represents a profound change for how insect control agents are discovered, and a step-change in how not only we protect our crops worldwide, but also our ecosystem.”

Synthetic chemicals currently dominate the £15.9 billion global market, accounting for 94 per cent of all insect control solutions.

About three-quarters of all food crops are dependent on pollinator insects, but others cause damage that has been estimated at a cost of at least $70bn (£51bn) in the US alone. At the same time, insect resistance is becoming more widespread, while regulatory controls are increasing along with consumer preferences for non-chemical solutions.

Solasta employs six full-time research and development staff, with management taking the total team to 10 people.

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The company is headed by Ms Davies along with co-founders Julian Dow, a professor in insect biology and functional genomics who serves as chief scientific officer, and chief technology officer Paul Bemasconi, formerly a senior executive with BASF. A fourth co-founder, peptide technology professor Robert Liskamp, is not part of the management team.

The three management team co-founders are joined by chairman Rob Wylie and chief financial officer David Armour.

Rob Halliday of SIS Ventures, the venture capital arm of Social Investment Scotland, said Solasta’s effort to deliver the next generation of nature-inspired green insecticides will have “profound” environmental and social impacts.

“SIS Ventures is proud to welcome Solasta Bio to our outstanding portfolio of Scottish mission-led businesses and we look forward to working closely with the world-class management team and our co-investing partners towards realising Solasta Bio’s significant potential,” he added.

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“To deal with the unique challenges of today, the global agribusiness industry is crying out for environmentally-friendly innovative new approaches to effective pest control. We believe Solasta Bio’s technology is a game-changer in this regard.”

Victoria Carmichael, director of strategic investments at Scottish Enterprise, said: “The rate at which Scotland’s academic institutions continue to produce game-changing spin-outs is staggering, with Solasta being another great example of an entrepreneurial culture that transforms world-leading research into real-world applications.

“Solasta is developing products with global appeal that will benefit the environment, conserve natural resources, and preserve biodiversity. Scottish Enterprise is proud to have supported its development through our High Growth Spinout Programme and look forward to exploring how we can further work with the company to help it achieve its growth ambitions and scale.”