- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Abrieux, an international scholar from France in the Joanna Chiu lab, is one of two recipients of an Innovator Fellow Award from the UC Davis Innovation Institute for Food and Health (IIFH).
“Each year, entrepreneurially minded PhD or postdoctoral students are invited to join venture capital partners onsite to gain first-hand experience on what it takes to have a successful startup, then apply that knowledge to develop and de-risk their own potential technology, product or process at UC Davis,” according to an IIFH news release.
Abrieux, whose project is titled “Improving Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Practices with Biotechnology,” is working with The Production Board (TPB), a San Francisco-based technology incubator and investment holding company that aims to improve the efficiency and economics of global food and agriculture markets.
Recipient Tawny Scanlan, a UC Davis doctoral candidate in animal biology, is researching “Enhancing Production Efficiency and Sustainability in Aquaculture” and working with Food for Thought Worldwide Ventures (FTW), a San Francisco-based early-stage venture fund investing in breakthrough hardware, software and biotech solutions in the worldwide food system.
Abrieux is utilizing his expertise in insect physiology, behavioral analysis and molecular biology to tackle problems related to agriculture and enhance food security. He seeks to develop innovative approaches in biotechnology to improve IPM practices by translating basic research into applied solution and ensure crop production sustainability.
Abrieux received his doctorate in biology from Angers University, western France, where investigated the role of hormones and biogenic amines in the behavioral response to the sex pheromone in the noctuid Agrotis ipsilon. He joined the Chiu lab in the spring of 2016 as a postdoctoral fellow.
In the Chiu lab, he explores the interactions between the clock and endocrine system underlying seasonal adaptation in the pest, the spotted-wing drosophila, Drosophila suzukii. “I am particularly interested in developing integrative approaches to better understand how physiological state and behavior could be modulate at both transcriptional and translational levels and facilitate insect adaptability to changing environments.” (He presented a UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology seminar on "Understanding the Molecular Mechanisms Underlying Photoperiodic Time Measurement in Drosophila melanogaster" in February 2018.)
“Understanding insects," Abrieux says, "helps us recognize how their presence influences the greater ecosystem and agriculture." Scientists estimate the worldwide impact of agricultural pests at almost one quarter of annual losses (more than $100 billion market value), amounting to $40 billion per year in the United States alone. Thus, improving IPM practices by translating basic research into applied solutions, he points out, could result in competitive biopesticide alternatives for growers to reduce economic losses without changing crop varieties or relying on more harmful insecticides.
"I am convinced that biotechnologies can have an important and beneficial impact on society,” Abrieux says, “and the likelihood to facilitate progress is considerably increased through collaborative efforts between actors from diverse domains of expertise.”
His supervisor, associate professor Joanna Chiu, vice chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, commented: “The Production Board Fellowship represents a perfect opportunity for Antoine to advance his understanding of the food security market and current needs, and to develop entrepreneurship ideas that he can take with him to the next stage of his career."
Abrieux, fascinated with insects since his childhood, maintains a photography website, including macro images of insects at https://antoineabrieux.wixsite.com/antoine-abrieux/portfolio.
(Note: UC Davis Innovation Institute for Food and Health contributed to this piece.)