Field Research and Development of Plant Growth Regulators by the Agrochemical Industry

in HortTechnology

This paper describes the field research and development (FRD) process followed by agrochemical companies when developing a new plant growth regulator (PGR). Specific approaches used by Valent BioSciences Corporation in developing EcoLyst, a newly registered PGR for use on orange (Citrus sinensis) in the United States, are cited as examples of this process. Agrochemical companies acquire some new PGR compounds from outside sources, while others are discovered internally. Internal development of new compounds is simpler to control and manage. When a new PGR is identified from an outside source, a company must first determine if the compound is available for licensing or outright purchase. If so, they assemble a team of internal experts to review all available data (due diligence) to determine if it has sufficient value to warrant pursuit. Once a PGR passes the initial screening processes and is approved for acquisition and potential development, negotiations begin with the owner of the compound. Many projects stop abruptly when the negotiating companies fail to reach an agreement. Immediately after an agrochemical company successfully acquires a new PGR, a well-coordinated chain of events is initiated throughout the company's organization to accelerate work on the project. One component of this involves the FRD team, which creates a comprehensive field research plan for the PGR containing clearly defined development goals that are global in scope. The FRD team works throughout the world, near important crop production areas, conducting research with the company's products. Members of the FRD team generally report to a research leader located at the company's main headquarters. The FRD team is one part of a larger development team, that works collectively to find and develop promising new compounds and new uses for existing company products. If initial research results from a new compound are favorable, the objectives of the workplan increase significantly after the first year. University and government researchers are generally brought into the research programs after a year or two of in-house testing. Early stage work is often done under a secrecy agreement in order to protect proprietary information and interests. Specific control points are identified in the development process, where decisions are made to continue or not, based on reviews of research data, business plans, and regulatory progress.

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