Product Development & Registration Series: Development & Launch
In my last couple of blogs I’ve outlined what’s involved in finding new active substances and how our scientists develop them into safe and effective crop protection products.
Given that we have to look at around 100,000 molecules to find just one which will eventually reach the market as a fungicide, insecticide, herbicide or plant growth regulator – a process that can take 8-10 years – you won’t be surprised to learn it’s not just time consuming but an eye-wateringly costly exercise.
We spend as much as £350m to bring a new molecule to market and invest around £1.4bn a year on all of our R&D, which is why it’s so important we weed-out as early as possible those which won’t meet registration standards or prove commercially viable – even so, the early-stage research phase of product development can account for up to a third of the total cost.
It also explains why all our new products for specialist crops such as ornamentals have to be based on actives targeted at crops of global significance – such as cereals, corn, rice or cotton – so we can recoup our R&D investment. What that does mean, of course, is while we still might have to adjust the formulation, and run more trials to ensure effectiveness and safety, we’re at least starting with something where most of the R&D and registration work has been completed.
The first four years of R&D, screening and initial studies on safety and environmental impact sees the candidate molecules whittled down from the 100,000 we started with to just one – but there’s still no guarantee it will make it all the way.
Now we start on the detail. Some of our chemists have to find the best way to manufacture the compound in commercial quantities while their colleagues look at the most appropriate formulations to maintain its activity after manufacture and enable you to apply it safely and effectively. The right packaging plays a role here, too, so we begin working on that at the same time.
Meanwhile, our biologists and crop scientists will start field trials to identify the most appropriate crops and pest, weed or disease targets and work out doses, rates, application methods, timings and so on.
Crucial at this stage are the studies needed to register a product for use, which can account for around 30% of the total cost of bringing a new active to market, a proportion that’s increasing all the time as registration, rightly, becomes ever-more stringent.
We’re dealing with registration authorities in many different countries. Our team of specialists who keep up to date with international requirements have to anticipate several years in advance the evidence our toxicologists and environmental scientists will have to provide on the product’s impact on animals including bees and other beneficial insects, water and soil microbes and, of course, you and your customers. We need to show, when used correctly, it won’t leave any harmful residues and that it won’t persist in the environment.
It’s a long and and expensive journey from finding an effective molecule to getting it through registration and into the hands of our customers. The stringent regulations are challenging but they mean that when we do bring a product to market you can be sure it’s safe, effective and –trust me – we know it very well indeed.
That's the last in our series of product development and resgistration blogs, we hope you've found them useful! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us on social media.