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Author: By Philip J. Garcia Bee Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO BEE - July 5, 1993

December 5, 1997
........has been sold to several counties as well as Disney World. There have been some problems, however.
mirrored here:

The Sacramento Bee - March 15, 1998
Author: Dale Kasler Bee Staff Writer

All Is Fair in the War On Crop-Eating Insects  
CAPITAL CAREERS The Sacramento Bee - March 14, 1996

"Working Out the Bugs"
From the Los Angeles Times of May 4, 1998
By MARTHA GROVES, Times Staff Writer

Scientists Experiment With Natural Strategies In Seeking Benign Ways To Protect Crops.

June 7, 2005
Pesticide firm AgraQuest lands $14.35 million

The Sacramento Bee - March 15, 1998 Author: Dale Kasler Bee Staff Writer
In a plastic dish teeming with cockroaches, the search goes on for Sacramento's next great industry. The dish and the cockroaches belong to AgraQuest Inc., a fledgling Davis biotechnology company founded by scientist Pam Marrone. She and her 18 lab-coated employees spend their days dicing leaves, eyeballing insects and sifting through soil in order to accomplish Marrone's mission: to produce environmentally safe pesticides and fungicides. Business leaders hope biotech will become a major, high-salary industry, populated by start-up companies such as Marrone's. Moreover, they're hoping biotech can liberate Sacramento from its branch-office prison and can generate a cluster of headquarter companies. They're looking to the University of California, Davis, with its strong agricultural, biosciences and medical programs, to spark the growth in the same way Stanford University was the brains behind Silicon Valley. AgraQuest taps UC Davis for interns, advisers and raw brain power. Its first product, a mosquito-killing fungus, builds on two decades of Davis research. "The campus is essential to us," Marrone said.

....... While UCLA and the University of Southern California are starting centers to convert scientific discoveries into commercial products - thanks to $200 million in donations from a Los Angeles-area biomedical entrepreneur - the Davis campus is just starting to forge ties with industry. read more at:

St. Louis Post-Dispatch - May 8, 1989 Society of Women Engineers - 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Joe Hanon's Restaurant, Dorsett Road at Interstate 270. Pam Marrone of Monsanto Co. speaks on ''Bio-Technology and Genetic Engineering - New Developments in Agriculture and Human Health.'' Information: Barbara Smith, 235-1797. REGION COURTING FOREIGN BUSINESS - UC DAVIS, CAPITAL ADDED TO ITINERARY OF LARGE EUROPEAN BIOTECH MISSION
Author: By Philip J. Garcia Bee Staff Writer

Pam Marrone , president of Entotech Inc., a biopesticide company and the Novo Nordisk subsidiary, said Davis was selected over competing locations in Seattle and Raleigh, N.C.

She cited three factors in the company's decision: quality of life, which is crucial in being able to attract top scientists; Davis' location in an agricultural region; and the presence of UCD, a top agricultural university.
Read More at:

SACRAMENTO BEE - July 5, 1993

Quietly working in the long shadow of the Bay Area, Davis is emerging as the Sacramento Valley's biotechnology center. Four biotech companies, employing more than 240 people, call Davis home. And industry officials said more companies will set up operations there. In fact, city officials say, several companies are now considering moves to Davis. "We're working on three additional companies in confidence," said Kelly Montgomery, deputy city...
Entotech President Pam Marrone said access to UC Davis' professors and researchers is the area's main attraction. ..........

All Is Fair in the War On Crop-Eating Insects   THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE - April 4, 1994
In the war on bugs, there's plenty of room for dirty tricks. Biotech companies are spending millions of dollars to expose insects to bug diseases, muck up their sex lives and induce them to eat poisonous plants. One of the most successful methods to battle bugs is germ warfare, specifically the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). First developed in France in the late 1920s to control the flour moth, this insect pathogen is a spore-forming microorganism that, while harmless to...

Viruses and fungi also hold promise for controling bugs, said Pam Marrone , Entotech's president, ``but so far we haven't cracked the technical problems.''

CAPITAL CAREERS The Sacramento Bee - March 14, 1996
Val Marchus has been named division manager for PRIDE Industries' Electronics Division. Marchus, who will oversee the management of the division's operational and new business development functions, formerly served as vice president of manufacturing and customer service for Grass Valley Group, and as president and CEO of Graham-Patten Systems, a Grass Valley-based electronics manufacturer

* The Sacramento Valley Forum has elected Mary Ferguson chairwoman for 1996. Ferguson is co-founder and CEO of the Technology Development Center, a privately held, for-profit business incubator in Sacramento. She also is chief financial officer for Healthcheck Inc., a medical information company. The Sacramento Valley Forum also elected Chuck Connell, David Hunt, Pam Marrone and Tom McCready directors.

* Nick Brooks has been promoted to sales manager of Del Webb's Sun City Roseville. Brooks is the former sales associate at Sun City, having joined the company in February 1994.

Ron Smith, vice president of Intel Corp.'s PCI component's division in Folsom, has been named senior vice president and general manager of the company's semiconductor products division. Smith, 45, has been with Intel for 18 years. In his new job, he will be responsible for a group that includes Intel's embedded microprocessor and microcontroller, flash memory, and automotive and military product lines.

* The Sacramento law firm of McDonough, Holland & Allen has brought Clement J. Dougherty Jr. on board in an Of Counsel capacity. Dougherty, who will work in the firm's probate section, is a former supervising deputy county counsel for the Sacramento County Counsel, and is the two-time recipient of the President's Award from the California State Association of Public Administrators/Guardians. Also new to the firm is Jeffrey L. Simpton, who has been hired as an associate attorney. Simpton previously served as the program director for the Chico Consumer Protection Agency. He will practice in the firm's litigation section Caption: Dougherty Simpton Brooks
BUSINESS AGRAQUEST RAISES $6 MILLION The Sacramento Bee - March 13, 1998 Author: Bee business staff
AgraQuest Inc. has raised $6 million through a preferred stock sale in a second round of financing, the Davis biopesticide company announced Thursday.

The proceeds will be used to launch the company's biofungicides, Sonata and Seranade; build a fermentation pilot plant; develop additional products; and hire senior sales and marketing and regulatory affairs staff, said Pam Marrone , president and chief executive officer.

Marrone said nearly all the investors from the earlier round of financing reinvested. They include Rockefeller & Co.'s Odyssey Fund and Calvert Social Investment Fund. New investors are King Ranch Inc., one of the nation's largest agribusiness business operations, and BioAsia, a Palo Alto-based venture capital group.

AgraQuest develops and markets environmentally friendly pesticides for the commercial, public health and consumer markets. Memo: SACRAMENTO BUSINESS Edition: METRO FINAL Section: BUSINESS Page: F2 Record Number: 130 Copyright 1998 The Sacramento Bee

"Sacramento Business Journal Honors Women in Business"
September 1998

Pam Marrone was recently (September 1998) honored by the Sacramento Business Journal as one of four business women who started their own companies and continue making big strides.

Pam Marrone has become a leading figure in our region's biotech industry. The successful founder and CEO of an exciting company, she also makes exemplary contributions to her community.

She started AgraQuest in 1996 to develop and market new biopesticides. The company has raised $10 million in private capital, and is on track toward an initial public offering in two years. AgraQuest develops and markets environmentally friendly products for pest control in the world market. Laginex®, for example, is the company's naturally occurring fungus that controls mosquito larvae.

Pam's interest in this area began as a child, blossomed into a Ph.D. in entomology, and took flight when she became head of the biopesticide control unit for Monsanto in 1983. In 1990 she was hired by a Danish company to start a biopesticide subsidiary, Entotech, in Davis, California. She launched AgraQuest when Entotech was sold to Abbott Laboratories.

AgraQuest was chosen the Business of the Year in 1997 by the Davis Chamber of Commerce, in part because of the company's extensive community involvement. Pam is also one of the founders of the Davis Area Technology Association, which seeks to make the community increasingly attractive to technology firms. She traces her success back to her parents' example... and with the insects in their organic garden. 

"Sacramento Business Journal Honors Women in Business"
September 1998"

"Working Out the Bugs"

From the Los Angeles Times of May 4, 1998
By MARTHA GROVES, Times Staff Writer
Scientists Experiment With Natural Strategies In Seeking Benign Ways To Protect Crops.

Every seven years in the woodsy pocket of Connecticut where she grew up, Pamela Marrone would feel the droppings of the gypsy moth caterpillars raining down on her head as the cyclical pests gorged on maples and oaks.

Desperate to save a heavily infested dogwood, her father once ignored his own organic gardening tenets and blasted the tree with a chemical called a carbamate.

By the next morning, every bee, every ladybird beetle, every lacewing - all the "good" bugs that fed on plant pests - lay dead on the ground.

Today, Pam Marrone is an entomologist, devoting 60 plus hours a week to hunting for natural products that can defeat plant scourges without wreaking havoc on human beings, animals, helpful insects or soil.

AgraQuest, Inc. the start-up she co-founded here in Davis, is one of a handful of laboratories on the leading edge of developing so-called biological controls to protect crops - an old idea that environmental concerns are making fresh again. Driving the quest is pressure from government and consumer activists to reduce the use of synthetic chemicals on the nation's farms and ranches.

AgraQuest scientists (and their friends and relatives) gather samples of lichen, leaves, fruit, roots, dead insects and sponges from the sea. All these can be sources of microbes - bacteria or fungi - that can help fight insect pests and plant diseases. The lichen is blended in a tube of sterile water. A microbiologist then inserts a small metal wand to capture microbes that have been living in or on the lichen. These samples are swabbed onto a petri dish.
The microbes grown on a dish, taking on different sizes, shapes and colors. Scientists watch especially for a microbe that wards off another, creating a "zone of inhibition."
Demonstrating the zone of inhibition, a microbe taken from a peach leaf fends off a disease that affects peach trees.
Using a fermentation "recipe" that coaxes the microbe to produce pesticides, scientists grow the microbe for from two to five days.
  • Potentially pesticidal microbes are tested against a broad range of plant diseases (or insect pests) in 96 well plates. One microbe is tested in each vertical row.
    Chemist Denise Manker uses a high-performance liquid chromatography machine to identify pesticidal components of the microbes. These are displayed graphically on a computer monitor. The peaks include properties that might prove to be strongly pesticidal.
    Microbiologist Lori Lehman works with fermentation tanks to develop a process for growing microbes on a larger scale. After fermentation, the microbes will be sprayed on plants.

    Hoping to make agriculture more environmentally correct, scientists are experimenting with a host of strategies - from using scents to disrupt the sex habits of moths to luring helpful ladybugs into fields with nutritious "power bars" to prospecting for natural disease fighters in unusual places.

    Consider Success, a newly approved natural insecticide from Dow AgroSciences, which was developed from a pest-fighting bacterium in soil samples from the Caribbean. A Dow scientist vacationing in the early 1980's had gathered them from under an abandoned rum still.

    "The era of chemical-based pest management is coming to an end," said Charles M. Benbrook, a long-time consultant on pest management based in Sandpoint, Idaho. "The era of biologically based pest management is quickly coming on."

    Biological controls are indeed making great strides, but Benbrook might be overstating the case.

    Despite a fair amount of hype in the past, biological control has never achieved anything close to it's potential. A decade ago, proponents forecast that natural products would capture half of all pesticide sales. Yet companies found it expensive and time-consuming to develop biopesticides that worked as fast and as cost effective as synthetics.

    Today, sales of natural controls remain a minuscule $250 million or so, contrasted with the $10.4 billion spent in the United States for pest-killing synthetic chemicals in 1995. Indeed, weaning growers off synthetics could prove a tough sell.

    Until the advent of synthetic chemicals after World War II, farmers used nothing but natural methods to protect crops. Once chemicals hit the scene, Americans embraced them as a pest-killing panacea in fields, gardens and homes.

    Sales of weed and insect killers have marched steadily upward. Meanwhile, hundreds of pests have developed resistance to popular chemicals, making them harder to control and putting farmers on a pesticide treadmill. Pesticides now must be applied two to five times to accomplish what a single application did in the 1970's.

    Intensive chemical use also carries a toll in contaminated drinking water and depleted soil, not to mention possibly toxic effects for humans, a subject of tremendous debate.

    But advocates of biological control see hopeful signs:

    The boom in the $4 billion organic food industry is showing that there is a market for foods grown mostly without the use of synthetic pesticides.
    The federal Environmental Protection Agency in recent years has eliminated many safety-testing requirements for products deemed to be"reduced-risk", streamlining the registration process. Since late 1994, about 60 such products have been registered, many by small companies.
    Under the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996, the EPA could soon curtail the use of many prominent synthetic pesticides, leaving growers to scramble for alternatives. The effect could be felt particularly in California, which primarily grows "minor" crops such as lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and pears. Companies developing crop-protection treatments tend to funnel research dollars into commodity crops such as wheat, corn and soybeans.
    The EPA and the U. S. Department of Agriculture have jointly dictated that by the year 2000, 75% of all crop acreage must be operating under "integrated pest management" strategies, including tactics that prevent infestations and biological controls to hold pest populations to acceptable levels.

    This has spurred industry and university researchers to tap the rich stores of nontoxic treatments that nature provides. Some companies are finding it can be easier to literally look under a rock for safe new pesticides than to synthesize chemicals that might have their roots in nerve gas or other highly toxic products.

    Using simple technology borrowed from restroom deodorant dispensers, Harry Shorey, a UC Riverside entomology professor, is pumping new life into a 30 year old concept: mating disruption. Male and female moths do not congregate together. When a female is ready to mate, she emits a scent. A male catches the scent and follows the trail upwind.

    Shorey's experiment aims to confuse that natural pattern. He and his crews are installing aerosol cans in cabinets at 10,000 sites in orchards in the west Central Valley and near Oxnard. Much like a deodorant dispenser, the cans puff a scent into the air that is designed to overwhelm male moths and make them unable to trace the females.

    Scientists have identified hundreds of these sexual scents, or pheromones. Because they are expensive to mimic, companies have synthesized only half a dozen. Shorey plans to get the most bang for the puff by placing specially designed puffer cabinets at the perimeters of 40-acre blocks in neighboring fields. The idea is to put large amounts pheromones into the air - with the amount of scent in each puff equaling that of as many as 10 million moths. In test runs, Shorey said he was able to cut the egg laying of beet armyworm moths by 75%.

    Shorey expects his technique, designed to protect peach, walnut and other trees from codling moths and other pests, to be available for commercial use within a year.

    For several years in the Sacramento Valley, Les Ehler, an entomologist at UC Davis, has been experimenting with ways to lure beneficial insects into sugar beet fields by providing food. Ladybugs, green lacewings and other insects that devour crop munching pests need sustenance whenever those pests aren't around.

    Ehler has concocted food sprays of mixed sugar, molasses and yeast that mimic the nutritious nectar, pollen and "honeydew" (a sticky substance produced by aphids) that adult insects need for egg laying. The optimal formulation eludes Ehler, but he has hopes for solid versions of the goodies, which he has dubbed "power bars". Ehler expects insects will be drawn to them.

    "I can't report spectacular success just yet," he said, adding that, at its best, such a strategy would be only one tool used along with synthetic chemicals.

    In his fields of citrus, avocados, pistachios, pears, tomatoes and other crops, grower George E. Myers has tried pheromone disruption and other methods with some success. But, facing the loss of several key synthetic chemicals in coming years, he decided that his agribusiness concern, Esperanza Ranches near Sacramento, needed more weapons.

    Myers invested in AgraQuest and sits on its board. He said he is excited by the prospects for two promising natural-product fungicides in AgraQuest's pipeline, both due on the market within two years. They are designed to control gray mold, brown rot mildew and root rot - common afflictions in California's fruit, nut and vegetable crops. Marrone, AgraQuest's president and chief-executive, projects that each product could eventually achieve sales of $50 million.

    Three year old AgraQuest's only commercial product to date is Laginex®, used to kill mosquito larvae. The company's scientists experiment continuously on promising fungi and bacteria contained in soil, lichen and other samples scoured from lake beds, forests, dunes and ocean caves.

    Big chemical companies also are exploring the biocontrol trend - while making it clear that they believe synthetic chemicals are here to stay.

    Dow AgroSciences, an Indianapolis based unit of Dow Chemical Co., is eager to capitalize on its insecticide Success. It is expected to attract a following in California. Last year, it was used under an EPA exemption to control diamond-back moths in Salinas and other areas after growers were unable to solve the problem with the usual treatments.

    "The new chemistries are fantastic," said Bryan Stuart, government relations manager for Dow AgroSciences in Sacramento, "but that doesn't diminish the importance of existing tools."

    Among those tools are advancements in genetic engineering. About half of the many USDA approved biotechnology applications involve the development of plants that can tolerate herbicides, such as the Roundup Ready varieties from Monsanto Co. Pesticide makers have invested heavily in such technologies to ensure expanded sales of their proprietary chemicals.

    Also approved for commercial use in the United States are corn, cotton and potato crops that have been supplemented through gene manipulation with a soil bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt. The bacterium helps the plants naturally resists certain harmful pests.

    But other solutions are needed, farmers and scientists agree. The research has lagged in large part because of the lack of public funding. Fewer that 10% of the 1,800 research scientists at the USDA's Agricultural Research Service - and less than 10% of the service's $745 million research budget - are focused on developing natural crop protection methods.

    "Enormous sums have gone to chemicals but dribs and drabs to biocontrol," said Margaret Mellon, agriculture and biotech project director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental advocacy group based in Washington.

    Sales of biopesticides as a group are growing faster than those of synthetics. Yet, saysMarrone, "to be honest, nobody has made money on it so far."

    Return to AQ's Home Page.

    You can reach AgraQuest by e-mail at: <>

    AgraQuest Inc., a developer and maker of environmentally friendly pesticides, announced on Tuesday the completion $14.35 million in private financing. The deal was led by Otter Capital LLC and by new investorsTexas Pacific Group and Halcyon Capital.

    Several other previous investors chipped in, including Switzerland-based
    SAM Sustainability Private Equity LP, Swiss Re Investors, Berndt Trusts and Boldcap Ventures.

    William McGlashan Jr. of Texas Pacific Group and Payman Pouladdej of Halcyon have secured seats on the Davis company's board of directors.

    "AgraQuest has many exciting opportunities to continue our global sales expansion and to launch new products in our pipeline," said Mike Miille, AgraQuest's CEO. "The sizable resources and experience of TPG will help create significant value for our customers and investors."