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New Mexico Angels/STC Start-up Closes on First Round of Investment

Albuquerque, NM – June 4, 2014 Ecopesticides International, a local start-up funded by the New Mexico Angels and created to commercialize technology developed at the University of New Mexico, has closed on its first round of funding and is moving forward with plans to secure lab space for testing on more agricultural pests. The technology was developed by Dr. Ravi Durvasula from UNM’s Department of Internal Medicine and UNM medical school student Adam Forshaw. The invention is a method for encapsulating naturally occurring pesticides, such as bacteria and fungi, in a ultraviolet light-resistant gel. The unique gel keeps the natural pesticides from degrading too rapidly before they’ve had a chance to kill the pests. To read more about the technology and the company, see Kevin Robinson-Avila’s June 2 article, “UNM Agritech Kills Pests, Protects Environment,” posted on the Albuquerque Journal’s eJournal website, reprinted below.

UNM agritech kills pests, protects environment

Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

University of New Mexico technology to improve the ability of natural organisms to kill agricultural pests is a few steps closer to market thanks to a new investment led by the New Mexico Angels.

The group, which pools funds from high-wealth individuals, officially has launched EcoPesticides International Inc. to commercialize UNM’s technology. It just closed on the first $150,000 of a $400,000 round on investment for the startup, and it brought in two serial entrepreneurs to run the company, said Angels President John Chavez.

“We’re working to fill out the full investment round, but we’ve already closed on the first tranche of capital,” he said. “We’re now scouting locations in Las Cruces, Albuquerque and Santa Fe to set up a laboratory.”

The technology provides a method to encapsulate fungus, bacteria and other natural organisms that kill agricultural pests.

Their effectiveness against pests like locusts is limited because they rapidly degrade under heat and ultraviolet light. Encapsulating them in UV-resistant gels allows them to last longer, be more effective and potentially provide an environmentally friendly alternative to chemical pesticides.

The Angels, who took an option to license the technology in December 2012, have been working with the inventors since then to further develop the technology, test its market potential and build a business structure and marketing plans before formally launching EcoPesticides.

The inventors already have received $1 million in development grants since 2011 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for ongoing lab and field testing in Tunisia, Africa, against desert locusts.

Sandia National Laboratories will provide technical assistance to determine if there are any residual environmental impacts from the encapsulated organisms, Chavez said. And the company is negotiating an agreement with the USDA to test UNM’s technology on grasshoppers and Mormon crickets.

EcoPesticides CEO Les Stewart said, “We see a lot of market opportunity…because of widespread concern about being able to grow food without destroying the environment.”

Source: Albuquerque Journal

For more information, contact:

Kevin Robinson-Avila