Ecogen Inc. announced last week that it has been issued U.S.Patent No. 5,187,091 on a Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) gene thatproduces an insecticidal crystal protein (ICP) to control beetlepests, especially the corn root worm beetle. The patent alsocovers the Bt strains that contain the gene.

"The insecticidal protein made by this gene in particular is themost efficacious Bt protein known for controlling the corn rootworm beetle," said John McIntyre, vice president for businessdevelopment and international distribution for the Langhorne,Pa., agbio company.

The corn root worm beetle is one of agriculture's mostdamaging pests; the market for pesticides to control it isestimated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture at $143million annually.

Ecogen (NASDAQ:EECN) also announced last week that it haslicensed from the USDA a strain of yeast for controlling postharvest rot in fruits and vegetables.

The yeast, Candida oleophila, protects fruit from spoiling duringstorage. It was identified as part of a collaboration betweenEcogen, Ecogen Israel Partnership (EIP) and the USDA,McIntyre said.

EIP is developing the yeast strain for controlling post-harvestrot, and Ecogen Technologies I Inc. (ETech), an independentcompany formed by Ecogen to fund six R&D activities, willdevelop the product.

Ecogen is currently evaluating the strain's efficacy at a pilotplant fruit processing facility in Israel. The company intends toconduct full-scale packing plant trials later this year.

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