Development of an innovative active substance for plant protection

GO-Bio 1 – Dr. Michael Weyand – Department of Structural Biology, Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology, Dortmund

Hand mit Petrischale, in der ein Blatt liegt

FikMik - fotolia

Recipient: Department of Structural Biology, Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology, Dortmund
Funding: GO-Bio Phase I (01.01.2007 - 30.06.2010, 2.765.942 Euro)


In recent years, Michael Weyand and his team have been researching a special group of proteins known as ‘14-3-3 proteins’, which they hope will find use as a fundamental technology platform for a wide range of applications in agriculture and medicine. 14-3-3 proteins can bind to hundreds of other proteins and regulate their activity. Weyand and his team are now hoping to intervene in this regulation through the identification and development of small molecules that can stabilise the interaction of 14-3-3 proteins with their target proteins. These molecules function according to the so-called agonistic principle, i.e. they reinforce existing protein functions and are thus in contrast to inhibitory principles of action (antagonists), which are at the heart of the vast majority of active substances.

The researchers want to build on this 14-3-3 technology in the development of a new, sprayable plant protection product for use in weed control in agriculture as well as vegetation removal in industrial areas. The fundamental principle is based on a naturally occurring herbicide that utilises the effects of 14-3-3 proteins in order to strengthen the vaporisation mechanism of plants and thus trigger an uncontrolled loss of water. Depending on the moisture conditions, the plant will then die in a period of between one and five days. The Max Planck Society and the involved scientists have patented the use of their technology for plant protection. The funding will contribute to the establishment of a company for the development and launch of a new and environmentally friendly herbicide. These activities will be pursued together with partners from the chemical industry. The new company will also offer the 14-3-3 technology platform as a service for the pharmaceutical and agricultural sectors in their efforts to find other potential drug candidates for medicine and agriculture.