Chemistry for ProsperityThe Azoxystrobin story
Prevents peach   Saves wheat crops   Controls devastating   brown rot       from infections   mildew on grapes and        ...
15+ years in   development   >1400   compounds testedAzoxystrobin
2010 market value reached $1.2 billion
Chemistry for ProsperityThe Azoxystrobin story
Chemistry for Prosperity: The Azoxystrobin story
Chemistry for Prosperity: The Azoxystrobin story
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Chemistry for Prosperity: The Azoxystrobin story


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One of a series of case studies compiled by the Royal Society of Chemistry, this presentation tells the story of Azoxystrobin, the world's biggest selling fungicide. Please feel free to use this information and help us to make the case for investing in the chemical sciences. Download the PowerPoint file to access the associated script.

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  • [Speaker introduces him/herself ] In September 2010 the RSC published a report showing that the chemistry research enables us to generate £258bn each year, or 21% of the UK’s GDP. An impressive figure but you may well wonder how this works? This case study, which is one of a series, attempts to answer that question by looking at the challenges that chemical scientists typically face, the solutions they have found and the wealth that this has created.
  • Chemistry affects almost everything in our daily lives, including the food and drink we consume It is essential for: Protecting crops and providing good yields Food production processes - such as pasteurisation and the use of preservatives Adding and enhancing flavour and aroma – artificial flavourings may often get bad press but in reality our diets would be a lot less rich without them, and extracting and using natural flavourings requires chemical techniques. Packaging – the sheer variety of foods we enjoy relies heavily on being able to transport them without damage and to prolong their shelf life and continuing advances in packaging technology allows us to do this safely while minimising the impact on the environment.
  • So chemistry adds value to the food and drink industry in a number of ways but for now let’s focus on where the raw ingredients for the vast majority of foodstuffs come from – crops, whether we consume these directly or we use them as animal feed. Humans have used natural pesticides to protect their crops since before 2000BC, but our modern understanding of plant nutrition dates back to 19th century chemists like the German, Justus von Liebig, who discovered that nitrogen is an essential plant nutrient. Nowadays, chemical fertilisers, pesticides and fungicides play a key role in our ability to feed to feed an ever increasing global population. Without them, we simply would not be able to feed ourselves.
  • In the 1980s and 90s, chemists at ICI developed a compound that has become the world’s biggest selling fungicide. It’s name is Azoxystrobin. Azoxystrobin is used to protect wheat from leaf rust and other infections and without it wheat yields would be reduced by 20%. It also prevents peach brown rot, which can decimate peach crops, and it controls devastating mildew on grapes and other vines which, if left untreated, would drastically reduce fruit yields. In fact, Azoxystrobin protects 120 different crops in over 100 countries around the world. It possesses the broadest range of application of all presently known fungicides and is the only substance that we know of that can protect against the 4 big groups of fungal diseases: Ascomycota : Septoria, which causes leaf spot on field crops and vegetables Deuteromycota : Pyricularia, which affects rice Basidiomycota : which cause stripe rust in field crops Oomycota : Water mould, which affects grapes
  • As far as we know, Azoxystrobin is not a naturally occurring compound – it was developed by chemists. Between 1977 and 1981, work by an academic research team led by Anke and Steglich isolated a number of compounds called Strobilurins from fungus - the structures of two of them are shown here. Although they exhibit fungicidal properties, these compounds are sensitive to light, so clearly would not be effective for use on crops out in the open. Over the next 2 decades chemists working at ICI developed, analysed and tested more than 1,400 different molecules to come up with a potent fungicide that is stable in sunlight, which came to market as Azoxystrobin in 1998.
  • As with all successful technology, the development of Azoxystrobin relied on the right people and targeted investment to succeed. This story began with the discovery some previously unknown natural products in academic research labs and a great deal of work to understand their structures and properties. ICI saw the potential in the compounds and invested heavily in developing an effective fungicide that could be widely employed in agriculture. Azoxystrobin is now part of S yngenta’s potfolio of crop protection compounds with patent protection until 2014. It is manufactured at their site in Grangemouth, Central Scotland. The original investment in the facility was $23.8 million, and it had a capacity of 1,500 tons per annum. The plant has been upgraded by major additional investment of more than $164 million, with the latest improvements being completed in 2010, giving the plant a capacity of around 6,000 tonnes per annum. Azoxystrobin is now used across the globe to protect numerous grain and fruit crops. Azoxystrobin’s toxicity towards mammals, bees, insects and earthworms is low and it breaks down easily in the soil. So how much was all this investment worth? Well, in 2010 the market value of Azoxystrobin reached $1.2 billion (about £750m) and without it the price of grain would likely be double what it is today.
  • Chemistry for Prosperity: The Azoxystrobin story

    1. 1. Chemistry for ProsperityThe Azoxystrobin story
    2. 2. Prevents peach Saves wheat crops Controls devastating brown rot from infections mildew on grapes and other vinesAzoxystrobin protects120 crop types in over100 countries
    3. 3. 15+ years in development >1400 compounds testedAzoxystrobin
    4. 4. 2010 market value reached $1.2 billion
    5. 5. Chemistry for ProsperityThe Azoxystrobin story