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Biotalys (Flanders) creates llama-based ecologic pesticide

Flanders-based biotech firm Biotalys is paving the way toward more sustainable agriculture with a new type of pesticide based on llama antibodies. The company’s innovative ‘agrobodies’ are as efficient as conventional pesticides and have no negative environmental impact. 

Biotalys (Flanders) creates llama-based ecologic pesticide

Antibodies from camelids

While the use of llama antibodies in biobased applications is not new, Biotalys is the first in the world to use the technology on plants. The biotech company from Flanders will produce ‘agrobodies’ from llama antibodies that protect crops against diseases and fungi. As it happens, Biotalys’ corporate neighbors Sanofi and ArgenX are using of the same technology for the creation of human medication, and llama antibodies are currently also being used in Flanders in the quest for a COVID-19 vaccine.  

“In our lab, we first select the t-cells from which we retrieve the antibodies. Contrary to GMOs, we work on the outside of the cell. Afterwards, we test our ‘agrobodies’ in a test tube on plants. Field trials remain crucial, because while a pesticide can function perfectly in the lab, it can lose its properties when used on the field,” comments Hilde Revets, chief science officer at Biotalys.  

Innovative ecological agriculture

Patrice Sèlles, CEO of Biotalys, is convinced that agrobodies will pave the way toward more sustainable agriculture, combining advantages of both traditional and organic farming: “Our products consist of proteins that fight diseases on plants, but which completely break down afterwards, leaving no traces in nature.”  

The innovative pesticides enable a high yield per hectare with as little impact as possible on the soil and the environment.  

Future plan(t)s

“We hope to bring our first product, BioFun1, to the markets in 2022, first in the US and then in Europe. BioFun1 is developed to fight a common fungus on grapes and strawberries. The field trials showed promising results,” Sèlles comments.  

Besides grapes and strawberries, the agrobodies can be used for many other types of cultivation, ranging from fruits to vegetables and cereals. The tech can even protect crops from rotting. “A lot of food goes to waste between harvesting and consumption. Here, you can’t use chemicals, because of possible residues. Our agrobodies, however, do not leave any trace and are 100% safe,” Hilde Revets wraps up.  

More info

Reported by
De Standaard newspaper
28 August 2020

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