28 September 2021

A GLASGOW University spinout 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, the first of their kind to be developed worldwide. 

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 has a technology platform for creating neuropeptide-based insect control products that target insect pests while preserving beneficial pollinators such as bees. 

Investors in this 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.

With this latest funding secured, SOLASTA Bio is aiming to take the trials of its biopesticides out of the laboratory and into real-world settings. The company aims to bring its first biopesticides to market in 2027, around half the time traditionally taken by synthetic pest control products.

The company's co-founders and management team are made up of: CEO Professor Shireen Davies (pictured), an expert in insect biology and functional genomics; Professor Julian Dow, CSO; former BASF senior executive Paul Bernasconi, CTO; and Professor Robert Liskamp, peptide technology. The three co-founders are joined by the Chair, Rob Wylie and CFO David Armour, with a team of R&D staff based in Glasgow. 

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Shireen 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.”

Senior Investment Manager at SIS Ventures, Rob Halliday said 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," he said.

Victoria Carmichael, Director of Strategic Investments at Scottish Enterprise, added: “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."

The Yield Lab
The Yield Lab Europe is an Agtech impact venture capital fund, which invests into early stage European AgriFoodTech companies to make our global food and agriculture production system more sustainable and more efficient whilst improving profitability. This includes technologies in crop production, animal health and welfare, precision agriculture, supply chain/logistics, food ingredients, supply chain, food processing and packaging. The Yield Lab Europe also runs an award-winning accelerator for earlier stage companies. 

SIS Ventures
SIS Ventures, a wholly-owned subsidiary of SIS, provides the tools and mission-aligned investment required to help early-stage businesses and social enterprises grow and deliver social impact at scale. In return for investment, SIS Ventures seeks a mission lock – where the social mission of the organisation is locked into the Articles of Association and cannot be changed without consent. Launched in 2018 and authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority, SIS Ventures has already raised and deployed its first fund, Impact First, investing £1.3 million in a portfolio of eight high-growth enterprises with an ambition to make a difference.