Penn State startup ConidioTec hopes to capture the pesticide market with their patented bed bug control product, Aprehend®.
Bed bugs are a serious problem and make up a sizable portion of the $7.6 billion North American pest control industry. Before Aprehend® there was no way for hotels or homeowners to prevent bed bug incursions. Hotels can train staff in early detection and rapid response, but bed bugs are difficult to eradicate with chemical sprays requiring multiple applications over a three-week period during which rooms are put out of service. Many hotels, instead, opt for an $800 heat treatment. Unfortunately, the service is financially out of reach for most homeowners.
ConidioTec has a better, faster solution. Bed bugs that come into contact with Aprehend’s® fungal spores will become infected and die within four to seven days.
Born out of research conducted by Penn State associate research professor Dr. Nina Jenkins and her postdoctoral research associate Giovani Bellicanta, Aprehend® offers a single, long-lasting application, sprayed as barrier in areas where bed bugs walk. When the bed bugs cross the barrier, the fungal spores stick to the body of the bug and are taken back to the harborage where they transfer among the bed bug population. The spores germinate on the bug’s cuticle and infect the bug. Aprehend® is non-toxic and received unconditional approval from the EPA in 2017.
“It’s the first time a fungal biopesticide has been proposed as a control method for bed bugs, so it is groundbreaking,” Dr. Jenkins told Journeys.
After discovering the effectiveness of their approach, the researchers filed for a patent through the Penn State Office of Technology Management and began the process of turning their technology into a business. They entered into the Ben Franklin Technology Partners eight-week boot camp the TechCelerator@StateCollege in 2013 and were selected from their cohort to receive $10,000 in funding. The team also won $10,000 in funding at the 2018 Invent Penn State Venture & IP Conference Tech Tournament when attendees voted them the winner of the Venture & IP Conference People’s Choice award.
‘This really has been quite a journey,” Jenkins told Penn State News. “I have learned so much over the past five years and have benefited from the help of so many people.”
Jenkins noted the assistance provided by Matthew Smith at Penn State’s Office of Technology Management, Associate Dean for Research Gary Thompson and his team in the College of Agricultural Sciences, the Ben Franklin TechCelerator team (including Don McCandless when he occupied that role), and Tyler Etter at Penn State Law Clinic at the Happy Valley LaunchBox, “to name but a few.”
The technology and Dr. Jenkins were featured on Pittsburgh television news station KDKA last November in a segment you can view HERE or below.
“It’s the first time a fungal biopesticide has been proposed as a control method for bed bugs, so it is groundbreaking.”
Dr. Nina Jenkins
ConidioTec Founder and Penn State Research Associate Professor