Local Startup Pluton Biosciences discovers new bacteria to kill insects

Pluton Biosciences, a St. Louis based startup research company specializing in microbial discovery, has joined forces with Terramera, the global leader in Technology for Clean Food, to test two new soil-based bacteria with insecticidal properties. Pluton focuses on mining soil in order to discover new or unknown microbes, including bacteria, viruses, and funguses; Terramera focuses on building products for the commercial application. Pluton’s founding team of seven is led by CEO Charlie Walch, four Ph.D. microbiologists and two engineers with expertise in data science and robotics.

Pluton is a for-profit research lab, searching the soil for new, sustainable biosolutions that can aid in the production of organic pesticides, antibiotics, pollution control, and soil remediation, among other applications. Their discovery of new insecticidal bacteria has been tested on the larvae of mosquitoes, which are responsible for more human deaths than any other natural cause; the outbreak of the Zika virus in 2016 was a catalyst for their current research.

Terramera will combine Pluton’s discovery of natural insecticides with Terramera’s patented Actigate Targeted Performance Technology in order to test them commercially as a natural control against insects that affect crops worldwide. Since the insecticide is naturally-derived, their solution is green and eco-friendly. Pluton will keep its focus on research, with the goal of generating a broad, licensed portfolio of useful natural discoveries and building a data library that maps varied ecosystems in the soil microbiome.

Pluton and Terramera hope their partnership will lead to “delivering sustainable new tools that significantly improve how we can protect people and crops against a wide variety of pests and diseases” (excerpted from Pluton’s next plan for the newly discovered bacteria is to develop them into a mosquito larvicide and is evaluating academic collaborations to “safely improve mosquito control efforts both at home and abroad” (excerpted from

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Article and photo credit:  Mike A. Bryan