Precision diagnostics: BASF teams up with Ontera

Precision diagnostics: BASF teams up with Ontera

Chemistry giant BASF and Californian molecular diagnostics expert Ontera are cooperating to produce mobile devices that can detect and name infections of diseases at an early stage.

BASF und Ontera kooperieren bei der Entwicklung von Präzisionsdiagnostik für Pflanzenkrankheiten im Feld.
The two companies are cooperating in the development of precision diagnostics for plant diseases in the field.

When a disease infestation in a field becomes visible to the naked eye, the infection has often already spread and caused damage. In addition, the symptom alone does not always make it clear which pathogen is involved and which therapy is therefore the most effective. The companies Ontera Inc. and BASF therefore want to speed up the process: They have agreed to collaborate on research into a portable system for the early diagnosis of plant diseases. The handy and robust platform will use a plant sample to evaluate molecular information in the field in laboratory quality within 20 minutes and present it in an understandable way.

DNA and RNA as well as proteins

"Innovative diagnostic technology to catch threats to yield and quality early on is vital for modern, sustainable agriculture," says Jürgen Huff, Senior Vice President Research and Development in BASF's Agricultural Solutions division. Ontera's technology enables the use of silicon nanopore single-molecule sensors for multi-plex measurement of nucleic acids, proteins and small molecules. Lightweight and durable enough to be used in the field, it produces a quantitative analysis of traits, pathogens and pathogen resistance in just minutes. This avoids time-consuming laboratory procedures that make seasonal, targeted application of crop protection products difficult, explains BASF. Since the nanopore signal is purely electronic, the solution offered by Ontera is easy to use on site.

Diagnosis allows optimized crop protection

A particular diagnostic focus is on fungal infections: Fungal diseases are constantly developing resistance to chemical pesticides. By identifying diseases and resistance mutations at an early stage, the device enables farmers to select the most effective crop protection products. BASF promises that this not only leads to targeted, sustainable crop protection, but also enables farmers to reduce costs and increase yields. The cooperation is currently in the research phase and field trials are planned at a later date. The long-term goal is "to make our solution available to a wider range of users in agriculture".

Improving productivity in an environmentally friendly way

"We share BASF’s commitment to sustainable agriculture and by applying innovative thinking to real-world farming challenges, we can improve access to high quality foods in an environmentally healthy way, all while increasing the productivity and predictability of harvests," summed up Murielle Thinard-McLane, CEO of Ontera.

Financial details of the cooperation were not disclosed by the companies.