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Novel Pesticides for a Sustainable Agriculture

Project description

Targeted, nature-inspired pest control will protect our foods, our health and the environment

Oomycetes are a group of several hundred fungus-like microorganisms that infect a broad range of animals and plants. They constitute one of the biggest threats to global food security and ecosystem health, and current copper-based compounds used to control them impact the environment and human health. The EU-funded NoPest project is harnessing nature, Big Data and artificial intelligence to find a better solution. By identifying the small molecules that inhibit enzymes vital to oomycetes’ survival and finding others that mimic their activity, NoPest will deliver a safe and effective solution to a significant challenge in light of the pressures of climate change on our food supply.


Members of the oomycete phylum represent highly problematic crop pathogens and a threat for global food security. For instance, P. infestans is the agent of potato late blight, and P. viticola of grapevine downy mildew. Oomycete infections are currently controlled by frequent applications of copper-based compounds, but the massive use of these compounds leads to pollution, residual toxicity and adverse effects on human health. The discovery of innocuous and reliable alternatives to traditional inorganic fungicides remains challenging and has been set as a high priority by EU and other countries. NoPest aims to develop an environmentally friendly approach for crop protection as an alternative to conventional chemical pesticides. The strategy, inspired by medical and pharmaceutical research, relies on peptide aptamers to counteract oomycetes infections by i) identifying small peptides (linear/cyclic peptide aptamers) that inhibit vital enzymes involved in oomycete cell wall formation and cell stability; ii) optimizing aptamer efficiency through peptidomimetics designed for field applications; iii) searching, using chemo-informatics approaches, for non-peptide small molecules that mimic the activity of aptamers.
These objectives will be addressed by selecting peptide aptamers from combinatorial libraries, based on their affinity and specificity for selected protein targets. Key benefits will be i) low probability to select resistant oomycete strains and no risk of co-selection of bacteria resistant to heavy metals; ii) no impact on animal and human health; iii) low environmental impact, as the approach is based on peptides that consist of natural amino-acids; iv) potential to develop additional products that confer antimicrobial resistance to any crop pathogen. Furthermore, in order to make the new molecules competitive in the pesticide market, precision farming non-invasive sensing tools will be developed, leading to reduced pesticide usage for field treatments.

Call for proposal


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Net EU contribution
€ 858 701,25
Via Festa Del Perdono 7
20122 Milano

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Nord-Ovest Lombardia Milano
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 858 701,25

Participants (6)