In March 2016, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Evolva Holding SA (also known as “Evolva”) to further study and develop nootkatone. The technologies involved in the described in this successful CRADA are patented compounds, compositions, and methods that employ a naturally derived substance for controlling arthropod (e.g., mosquito, tick, and flea) pest populations. The active ingredient, nootkatone, is found in Alaska yellow cedar trees (also known as the Nootka cypress), some herbs, and citrus fruits. CDC biologists have found nootkatone to be an effective repellent and pesticide for use against ticks and mosquitoes.
Nootkatone is being tested against a variety of pests, notably the ticks that are responsible for spreading Lyme disease bacteria, the mosquitoes contributing to the spread of Zika, chikungunya, and dengue viruses, as well as head lice, bed bugs, and other biting insects. Given the technology’s promise and urgency of the recent Zika outbreak, CDC Technology Transfer Office (TTO) team members worked to expedite the CRADA as many other Zika-related inquiries for different agreements were coming in.
CDC and Evolva entered into the CRADA to expeditiously conduct the safety and efficacy trials required for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registration of the biopesticide nootkatone as a repellent and pesticide against ticks and mosquitoes prior to bringing products to the market. CDC’s partner, Evolva, also has a cost-effective, patented yeast fermentation process for producing high-purity and high-yield nootkatone.
CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases (DVBD) is currently working with Evolva to evaluate formulated test products for the mosquito work. Evolva also has an exclusive Patent License Agreement to utilize CDC’s three related patented nootkatone technologies.
Although currently available tick repellents for use on skin, clothing, or in the yard are considered safe and effective when used as directed, many people are reluctant to use chemicals. To provide other options, CDC scientists discovered that a natural organic compound found in plants can repel or kill biting pests.
CDC and Evolva are performing necessary safety and efficacy studies for EPA-registration of nootkatone. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is co-sponsoring these studies. EPA has classified nootkatone as a biopesticide. Evolva anticipates EPA registration of nootkatone as a manufacturing product in 2018. Evolva is working on regulatory approvals of nootkatone in other parts of the world with a focus on East-Asia and South America.
In 2017, the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and Evolva negotiated an 18- month contract funded by CDC to advance mosquito-focused product formulation development and EPA regulatory registration, and help prepare nootkatone product manufacturing readiness.
Vector-borne diseases remain a global threat. New pathogens are being discovered; known ones are spreading to new areas. Insecticide-resistance to mosquitoes is a growing problem with few options available to us to combat the threat. Given the recent Zika outbreak and devastating effects to newborns, new repellent and pesticide solutions are desperately needed. With the CRADA, exclusive license, and contract in place, patented nootkatone may become a new tool in our arsenal to fight mosquitoes and other biting pests.
CDC appreciates that public health research requires the input and effort of many partners to achieve success.
Note: The initial work took place at CDC’s Fort Collins campus and Evolva Holding’s facilities. The mosquito work is moving forward under the subsequent BARDA contract.