Mar 10, 2023
Biotech company to conduct independent plant health research at N.C. PSI

The North Carolina Plant Sciences Initiative, a global hub for plant science innovation, is collaborating with agricultural biotech company Oerth Bio in a groundbreaking partnership.

Oerth Bio, which develops targeted protein degraders for plants, will be the first company to conduct independent research at N.C. PSI as well as the first to occupy N.C. PSI’s rooftop greenhouse facility.

Oerth Bio and N.C. PSI teams discuss greenhouse configuration plans. Photo: Provided

Oerth’s PROTAC degrader technology aims to help farmers with weed control, disease control, insect control and crop efficiency. PROTAC molecules work catalytically to trigger intercellular protein balancing processes. The proteolysis targeting chimera compounds are tunable for a variety of applications and capable of addressing numerous plant health issues, according to Oerth’s website.

Optimizing Oerth Bio’s pioneering technology requires specialized greenhouse, laboratory and field resources to test against multiple plant and pest species. The N.C. PSI facility meets these needs with state-of-the-art, climate-controlled greenhouses, biosafety level 2 and 3 containment, a research track sprayer, and on-site microscopy and mass spectrometry core facilities.

The extensive field station network at North Carolina State University can provide critical testing support to advance Oerth’s most promising leads.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Oerth Bio into the Plant Sciences Building to continue our long-standing partnership, now under the same roof,” Adrian Percy, N.C. PSI executive director, said in a news release. “Their presence in the greenhouse facility exemplifies the entrepreneurial intention of the N.C. PSI where students, postdocs and cross-disciplinary faculty interact with an industry partner in formal and informal ways that will hopefully lead to plant science breakthroughs.”

The research collaboration builds on a longstanding relationship between the two organizations. John Dombrosky, Oerth Bio’s CEO, sits on the N.C. PSI External Advisory Board, while Percy sits on Oerth’s Scientific Advisory Board.

“N.C. PSI is an ideal innovation partner, aligning with Oerth’s vision for a collaborative approach utilizing cross-functional experts from academia, industry, and business,” said Paul Bernasconi, Oerth chief scientific officer.

The agreement unlocks the potential for Oerth to showcase PROTAC® degraders and their utility in sustainable agriculture while providing N.C. PSI a unique research focus in plant science. Dr. Paul Ingram, Oerth’s Director of Product Performance spearheaded the research collaboration and celebrates the collaborative approach, “N.C. PSI’s infrastructure, facilities, and network of scientific experts are an excellent fit for Oerth Bio and will allow us to conduct high-quality experiments across all of our research interests.”

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