CAMTech: Bridging the Gap Between Industry Needs and Federal and Academic Research for Arthropod Management

By Bryony Bonning and Subba Reddy Palli

The Center for Arthropod Management Technologies (CAMTech) was established in August 2013 by Director Bryony C. Bonning at Iowa State University and co-Director, Subba Reddy Palli at the University of Kentucky. This National Science Foundation (NSF) Industry / University Cooperative Research Center (I/UCRC) program was initiated to promote partnerships among industry, universities, and government, with the major goals being to develop research infrastructure, train the technical workforce, and facilitate technology transfer (Gray, 1998).

Bryony Bonning & Subba Reddy Palli

A CAMTech-sponsored symposium called “Public-Private Partnerships for Development of Next-Generation Pest Management Methods” will be held at ICE 2016 on Wednesday, September 29, 2015 from 9:15 to 11:30 in Room W314A of the Orange County Convention Center. Presentations will include results from CAMTech-funded projects and presentations from member companies, and a luncheon will follow for symposium attendees.

The majority of I/UCRCs deal with engineering or computer science with historically few in the biology, agriculture, or biotechnology sectors. CAMTech is the first NSF I/UCRC to focus on arthropod management.

In contrast to other types of NSF centers, research conducted within I/UCRCs is driven by the interests of industry partners, rather than by the interests of the university researchers. Research conducted within CAMTech is fundamental and pre-competitive in nature or focused on method development. The reasons for this include avoidance of competition with research underway within member companies. Patents resulting from center research is shared among the members, which presents significant issues for patent lawyers!

Given the ongoing consolidation of the agricultural biotechnology industry (Sanahuja et al., 2011), recruitment of industry partners has been a priority for the center directors. CAMTech currently has 11 industry partners, including companies with interests in medical and veterinary arthropods, in addition to those from the agricultural biotechnology sector. In addition to early access to results and datasets generated from the research projects, member companies benefit from networking opportunities. Indeed, members of the CAMTech Industry Advisory Board have developed a strong rapport and work well as a team to vet research proposals in an NSF-style manner. Companies also benefit from access to potential future employees with roughly one-third of trainees within I/UCRCs going on to work for an industry partner.

In aligning research within academia with the needs of industry, CAMTech provides an important niche that has only partially been addressed in the past: The Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research Inc. (CPBR) with support from the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of the Environment, among others, funded plant-related projects that were basic or applied in nature and required an industry match. With the loss of congressional earmarks in 2011, the source of funding for CPBR was eliminated. The establishment of the USDA Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) will serve to align university research with industry interests across agriculture, with industry matching funds required for all FFAR projects.

During the first three years of operation, CAMTech has supported 10 research projects (see Table 1) with the majority being based at Iowa State University or the University of Kentucky. The goals of these projects have included understanding the mechanisms of movement of proteins from the gut into the hemocoel of an insect, the enzymatic challenges faced by agents used for suppression of stink bug populations (Lomate and Bonning, 2016), and why RNAi works so well in beetles, but not in other insects (Shukla et al., 2016). In addition, CAMTech projects have addressed the development of methods for high-throughput and sensitive assessment of the effects of nematicides on the soybean cyst nematode (Beeman et al., 2016), establishment of continuous cell lines from the midgut of selected pest insects, use of porous silica nanoparticles to deliver RNA and small proteins to insect tissues, and leveraging of the recently assembled draft genome of the soybean cyst nematode to advance understanding of genetic diversity and pathology of this pest.

During the course of these projects, numerous postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and undergraduates have been trained. Researchers directing CAMTech projects provide quarterly reports, and each project has at least two mentors assigned from within the member companies, with more frequent interaction between researchers and project mentors. The rigor of the CAMTech program and expectations for productivity provide insight for trainees into the expectations of the industrial sector. Trainees and faculty members alike benefit from increased interaction with industry representatives.

Additional information about CAMTech can be found on the web at http://camtech.ent.iastate.edu/.

If you are attending the 2016 International Congress of Entomology, be sure to come to the CAMTech symposium.

Acknowledgements

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation I/UCRC, the Center for Arthropod Management Technologies under Grant No. IIP-1338775, and by industry partners; by the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Iowa State University and by the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, University of Kentucky.

References

Beeman, A.Q., Njus, Z.L. Pandey, S., Tylka, G.L. 2016. Chip technologies for screening chemical and biological agents against plant-parasitic nematodes. Phytopathology (Epub ahead of print)

Gray, D.O. 1998. Creating win-win partnerships: Background and evolution of Industry / University Cooperative Research Centers Model. Chapter 1 in: Managing the Industry/University Cooperative Research Center: A Guide for Directors and Other Stakeholders.  (Eds. Gray, D.O. and S.G. Walters.) Columbus, OH: Battelle Press.

Lomate, P.R., Bonning, B.C. 2016. Distinct properties of digestive proteases and nucleases in the gut, salivary gland and saliva of southern green stink bug, Nezara viridula. Scientific Reports 6:27587. doi: 10.1038/srep27587.

Sanahuja, G., R. Banakar, R.M. Twyman, T. Capell, and P. Christou. 2011. Bacillus thuringiensis: a century of research, development and commercial applications. Plant Biotechnol. J. 9:283-300. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7652.2011.00595.x.

Shukla JN, Kalsi M, Sethi A, Narva KE, Fishilevich E, Singh S, Mogilicherla K, Palli SR. 2016 Reduced stability and intracellular transport of dsRNA contribute to poor RNAi response in lepidopteran insects RNA Biol. 13: 656-69.


Bryony Bonning is a professor and director of the NSF I/UCRC, Center for Arthropod Management Technologies (CAMTech) at Iowa State University. She currently oversees research on insect physiology and insect-virus interactions, and exploitation of molecular interactions for development of new technologies for transgenic insect resistance, or management of insect vectored disease. Recent efforts have been focused on transgenic resistance to hemipteran pests.

Subba Reddy Palli is a professor and chair of the Entomology Department at the University of Kentucky. He also serves as the Kentucky state Entomologist and as co-director of the NSF I/UCRC, Center for Arthropod Management Technologies (CAMTech). Hormonal regulation of molting, metamorphosis and reproduction, and development of RNAi-based pest-management methods are the focus of current research in the Palli laboratory.

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