investigating nature’s design for novel herbicide modes of action


Investigating nature

We harness the principles of natural selection to accelerate the discovery of new modes of action for better, safer herbicides so farmers can continue to feed the world.


Discovered, not invented

By having science and technology work with nature, we are able to effectively screen more compounds than the entire industry combined, giving us an unprecedented head start towards sustainable crop protection.


Letting plants lead the way

We study real-world effects on whole plants so we can ask better questions earlier and make safer choices about the compounds we explore -- faster and less expensively than ever before.

The challenge

As farmers strive to meet a rising population’s demand to grow more food with less environmental impact, they face many challenges - including the rapid rise of herbicide resistant weeds.

To keep growing food sustainably, we need better herbicides used in better ways. Without them, growers could easily lose half their yields and would be forced to abandon regenerative practices like low and no till. Our farmlands would produce less and the food we eat would require more water, fertilizer, and area to grow it. As a result, we’d see increased water stress, fertilizer use, erosion, deforestation and CO2 emissions worldwide.

Novel modes of action

Herbicides with new modes of action (MOAs) can break resistance and improve safety and sustainability.

Today weed resistance affects more than 250 weed species infesting nearly 100 crops. As a result, weed management costs have doubled for many farmers, and we’re overusing a dwindling number of herbicides at ever higher rates.

The root of the problem is the difficulty in finding new MOAs - none have been introduced in the past 30 years. As regulators withdraw older, less effective herbicides, even more pressure is put on the options that remain.

We can do better. We need herbicides with new modes of action that work together with other innovative tools and techniques so we can keep our crops safe.

A mode of action is a specific way in which chemistry interacts with plant biology to inhibit the growth of weeds.
Our approach

moa will discover a new generation of safer herbicides, countering resistance and enabling food security.

Building on fundamental biology from Oxford’s Department of Plant Sciences, we’ve set up the first systematic empirical search for new MOAs with our 3 distinct in vivo discovery platforms.

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high-throughput screen for new MOAs

Screens a huge diversity of natural and synthetic chemistries on miniaturised whole plants to rapidly identify an abundance of new, never commercialised herbicide modes of action at unprecedented scale, speed and cost.

Is it a herbicide? Does it work in a new way?
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MOA elucidation

 Combines powerful genetics and bioinformatics to identify the precise target protein pathway of a new MOA in months rather than years, accelerating predictions of safety and optimization into farm-ready herbicides.

 how does it really work? What does the MOA tell us about the safety and commercial opportunity?
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MOA-specific chemotype discovery

Miniature plants help discover additional chemistries with a particular new MOA, to find whole families of effective herbicides with new ways of working.

How can we amplify the value of a new MOA?

Learn more about our plant-led discovery platform.

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