Florida Insect Control Group featured at event in D.C.

|  April 19, 2019
 Photo: PMP, 2015

Drs. Koehler and Roberto Pereira stand in front of their home base at the University of Florida’s Urban Entomology building. Photo: PMP, 2015

University of Florida (UF) researchers behind Florida Insect Control Group, a pest control device company originally intended to protect deployed military personnel from insect-borne diseases, shared the story of their #Research2Startup path at the University Innovation and Entrepreneurship Showcase in Washington, D.C.

Organized by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities and the Association of American Universities, the showcase highlights the role of federally funded university research in fueling entrepreneurship, innovation and economic opportunity nationwide.

The Florida Insect Control Group, which offers solutions for control of adult and larvae mosquitoes and flies, is one of 20 startups participating in the event. A selection committee for the showcase chose participating startups based on level of student engagement and the strength of the technology and its connection to research.

“The initial goal for the research was to protect deployed warfighters from flies and mosquitoes,” explains Dr. Philip Koehler, a professor at UF’s Department of Entomology & Nematology, Urban Entomology Laboratory; head of research for the Florida Insect Control Group startup; and 2015 PMP Hall of Fame inductee.

“Deployed troops are often in temporary positions and are limited in the size and weight of supplies. Flies and mosquitoes threaten their health and ability to respond to the enemy,” Koehler says. “We developed fly and mosquito traps and larvicidal chips to deal with the problems of insects for deployed warfighters.”

Florida Insect Control Group develops products that are easily manufactured and shipped. Instead of releasing pesticides into the air or water, the startup embeds the pesticide in micro-porous plastic polymers or within porous fabrics, providing the exact minimum lethal dose needed to kill. The products attract the insect by providing the right shape, color, odor, surface and materials mosquitoes and flies like.

“The major problem with mosquitoes is that they need water, and water breaks down insecticide,” Koehler explains. “We used polymer-embedded insecticide to allow the devices to deliver insecticide to mosquito larvae and adults for months. The trap kills mosquitoes when they land inside the container to rest or lay eggs. The larvicidal chips release insect growth regulator into water to prevent larvae from turning into adults. According to World Health Organization standards, the water is potable and safe for humans, domestic animals and wildlife.”

Grants from the Deployed WarFighter Protection program enabled Koehler, fellow researcher Dr. Roberto Pereira and their team to develop the fly trap and the mosquito traps and chips. The military provided preventive medicine technicians familiar with issues associated with deployed warfighters to conduct the research.

“Their experience was invaluable to incorporate their knowledge of vectors in other countries so that the products would work in virtually any part of the world,” Koehler says.

Florida Insect Control Group, led by founder and CEO Enrico Paolo Levi, licensed the technologies.

The startup’s products target container-breeding mosquitoes (the carriers of Dengue, Zika, West Nile, Chikungunya and Yellow Fever) and house flies that are responsible for spreading more than 60 different diseases (including typhoid fever, dysentery, anthrax and tuberculosis).

The mosquito products are in the last phases of approval by the Environmental Protection Agency and the European Union.

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