Glasgow Uni biopesticides spinout in seed funding

SOLASTA Bio CEO Shireen Davies

SOLASTA Bio, a Glasgow University spinout company specialising in the next generation of green insecticides, has secured seed investment of £1.3 million to support ongoing development of its nature-inspired pesticides.

Established in May 2020 after four years of research funded by UKRI BBSRC and the EC, and commercialisation support from Scottish Enterprise’s High Growth Spinout Programme, SOLASTA Bio develops environmentally-friendly products that meet a global need for new and effective crop protection.

These biopesticides also preserve the ecosystem by protecting beneficial insects such as bees.

The company has developed the world’s first technology platform for creating neuropeptide-based insect control products that are nature-inspired rather than selected from a synthetic chemistry library.

These products effectively target insect pests while preserving beneficial pollinators such as bees in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner.

Investors in the seed funding round include The Yield Lab Europe, SIS Ventures, members of Cambridge Agritech and UKI2S, who also provided access to the UKI2S managed Innovate UK Sub Fund grant.

Founding investors UKI2S and Scottish Enterprise provided pre-seed funding.

SOLASTA Bio aims to bring its first biopesticides to market in 2027, around half the time traditionally taken by synthetic pest control products.

The company was co-founded by CEO, scientist and entrepreneur Professor Shireen Davies, functional genomics professor Julian Dow, CSO, former BASF senior executive Paul Bernasconi, CTO, and professor Robert Liskamp, peptide technology.

The three management team co-founders are joined by the Chair Rob Wylie and CFO David Armour with a team of R&D staff based in Glasgow.

The global insecticides market is currently dominated by synthetic chemicals accounting for 94% of insect control solutions, with a projected 2022 value of $22 billion.

SOLASTA Bio said that while 75% of food crops are dependent on pollinator insects, other insects cause enormous social, health and economic damage accounting for at least $70 billion in US crop losses alone.

SOLASTA Bio CEO Shireen Davies said: “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.

“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 we not only protect our crops worldwide, but also our ecosystem.

“This seed funding now allows us to accelerate our R&D plans and move towards Series A in 2022.”

Nicky Deasy, managing partner at The Yield Lab Europe, said: “We are delighted to back SOLASTA Bio and lead this round, and I look forward to working with Shireen and the team to help them successfully commercialise this important technology.”

SIS Ventures senior investment manager Rob Halliday said: “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-investment partners towards realising SOLASTA Bio’s significant potential.

“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.

“By delivering the next generation of nature inspired green insecticides, SOLASTA Bio will create profound environmental and societal impact.”

UKI2S investment director Oliver Sexton: “SOLASTA’s platform of highly selective biopesticides will provide an alternative to environmentally damaging crop protection agents.

“UKI2S is excited by the team’s technology which has global potential and is addressing large agritech markets.”

Victoria Carmichael, director of strategic investments at Scottish Enterprise, said: “The rate at which Scotland’s academic institutions continue to produce game-changing spinouts 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.”

About the Author

Mark McSherry
Dalriada Media LLC sites are edited by veteran news journalist Mark McSherry, a former staff editor and reporter with Reuters, Bloomberg and major newspapers including the South China Morning Post, London's Sunday Times and The Scotsman. McSherry's journalism has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, London's Evening Standard and Forbes. McSherry is also a professor of journalism and communication arts in universities and colleges in New York City. Scottish-born McSherry has an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and a Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University.