Primary research interest

Insect cell technology and biotechnology

Additional role

Co-Deputy Director, Biotechnology Program

Research focus and collaborations

Increased resistance to chemical pesticides and concern over their use has seen renewed interest in the application of biological means to control pests of commercial importance. The Reid Group is involved with the advancement of technology that is necessary to reduce the cost of production of biological control agents. This research is concerned initially with the effective scale-up of insect viruses.

Many wild-type Baculoviruses exist that can specifically infect and kill key agricultural caterpillar pests. Bacloviruses are the largest viruses known (1 micron in diameter), because they wrap their genomes up in large protein coats (Occlusion Bodies). This enables the virus to be stable in the open environment and they are able to be delivered to crops using conventional land and air-based spraying procedures.

Our laboratory has a process patent on a procedure for producing Baculoviruses via fermentation. Our lead product is a Baculovirus which targets the Helicoverpa pest species which accounts for a $US3.2 billion per annum market. At current yields our production costs would allow us to target Helicoverpa pest species in areas where this pest is resistant to most low-cost chemical options ($20/Ha), and where only more expensive chemicals are in use ($30-$50/Ha). Further improvements in yield would allow the product to compete on cost alone in all markets, including extensive markets in India and China.

Research projects

  • Transfection of Host Insect cells with viral proteins aimed at enhancing virus yields.
  • Optimisation of serum-free media and feeds for insect cell technology.

Selected publications