Drug discovery techniques for discovering novel pesticides

Prof. Feng Zhang is applying lessons from drug discovery to agriculture. Using strategies from structure-based drug design, Prof. Zhang is developing a high-efficiency pesticide against Fusarium graminearum. View Halo Profile >>

Tell us about your research.

My research interests are in the discovery of novel molecules with potential application as green fungicides. My work includes the screening of more targets for fungicides and the design and synthesis of small molecule drugs based on target structure. My group already solved the complex crystal structure of myosin I from the plant pathogen Fusarium graminearum and its inhibitor phenamacril. We will develop more myosin inhibitors not only against Fusarium graminearum but also other important plant pathogens in the field of agriculture such as Magnaporthe grisea.

Traditional methods of pesticide creation no longer meet the high-quality standards necessary for agricultural products and controlling pest resistance.

Can you explain that to a non-scientist?

Pesticides are indispensable for agriculture, with many pesticide technologies developed to ensure the safe, efficient, and green development of modern agriculture. However, traditional methods of pesticide creation no longer meet the high-quality standards necessary for agricultural products and controlling pest resistance. Structure-based drug design has been widely used in medical science and has achieved much success. The small molecule drugs created from this strategy show high specificity and are environmentally friendly. In this program, I will introduce this strategy for the creation for novel myosin inhibitors.

Why did you choose this area of research?

When I studied abroad, I gained a solid experience in structural biology and drug design. When I returned, I felt deeply that the pesticide innovation in China was lacking. New pesticide creation technologies with high efficiency, low toxicity, low residue and low resistance risk have been monopolized by foreign countries for a long time. I believed that developing new theories and technologies for pesticide creation is the only way to achieve sustainable control of agricultural pests in China.

Pesticides with high efficiency that are environmentally friendly are the best choice for sustainable agricultural development both now and in the future.

How could your Grants4Ag project someday impact #healthforall #hungerfornone?

Pesticides with high efficiency that are environmentally friendly are the best choice for sustainable agricultural development both now and in the future. Strategies including structure-based drug design have been proven to speed up the drug creation cycle. My Grants4Ag project aims to create a pesticide with higher efficiency and a larger control spectrum compared to phenamacril. These new myosin inhibitors will be widely used in the prevention and control of plant pathogens and hopefully reduce production loss greatly someday.