Health & Wellbeing

Innovative rat lures attract global interest


Published Nov 6, 2018

Victoria University of Wellington researcher Dr Michael Jackson is a step closer to seeing his innovative, sustained-release rat lure products on the global pest control market, thanks to assistance from the KiwiNet Emerging Innovator Programme

Dr Jackson received the $25,000 award to aid the commercialisation of his new lures which emit chemical compounds that he and his colleagues identified are attractive to rats, one of the world’s most damaging pest mammals.  

Dr Jackson from the School of Biological Sciences at Victoria University of Wellington is leading a research project team to transform a number of chemical compounds they have identified as attractive to rats into viable, commercially available products. The chemical compounds are being put into easy-to-use pest control products that emit the compounds in a controlled and sustained manner over extended time periods, thus offering users a time and cost saving replacement for traditional, perishable lures.   

Dr Jackson says, “Wild rodents are a significant global pest problem. We are developing rat lure products that deliver a sustained release of attractive chemical compounds over an extended time-period. The problem with traditional rat lures, and lures for other pest mammals, is that they are perishable foods like peanut butter that mould or get eaten by non-target animals. This means they’re only effective for a few days before they need to be replenished, which is costly and time consuming.” 

Viclink has worked closely with Dr Jackson and his team to develop a strategy to commercialise their novel approach to pest control. With funding and additional commercialisation assistance from KiwiNet (through the KiwiNet Emerging Innovator Programme), Dr Jackson has been able to assess channel-to-market options, secured interest from key local and international industry players, and engaged with a commercial partner to undertake a range of commercial activities.  

Dr Jackson says, “Being supported by KiwiNet to undertake market analysis and validation has been invaluable. I’ve been able to talk to, and collaborate with, potential partners across the globe who have extensive experience in developing and selling pest control products. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without KiwiNet’s support”.  

“Dr Jackson’s new long-life lures represent a fantastic export opportunity for New Zealand. There is keen interest in the global pest control market for new technologies that are more effective than traditional kill-trapping methods using food-based products,” says Dr James Hutchinson, KiwiNet’s CEO. “We’re delighted to have helped the commercialisation of this important technology which will have applications in a range of settings including conservation, agriculture, food storage and processing, and human and animal health.” 

KiwiNet has also awarded a further $25,000 PreSeed Accelerator Funding for the project

Dr Jackson started his research into semiochemical (signalling) compounds in 2014 for his PhD thesis which he completed in 2017. Jackson, along with colleagues Associate Professor Wayne Linklater and Dr Rob Keyzers from Victoria University of Wellington’s Centre for Biodiversity and Restoration Ecology, were awarded $360,000 last year from the Department of Conservation to help develop their lures through the Predator-Free 2050 Tools to Market fund, designed to make available the tools needed to achieve New Zealand’s Predator-Free 2050 goal. The funding enabled the team to begin the process of transforming their initial research into viable products. 

Viclink’s early engagement with Jackson’s team—and other partners such as the Department of Conservation (DOC) and KiwiNet—has ensured the research and development of the lures has progressed hand-in-hand with assessment of market need for this product, and patent applications which have been filed to protect the invention’s intellectual property. 

“Viclink’s significant investment in this project, together with fantastic support from DOC and KiwiNet, has helped to ensure this early stage technology can be incorporated into a variety of easy-to-use product options that make a real impact on society,” says Dr Janice Cheng, Viclink’s commercialisation manager, who works alongside Dr Jackson. “The global pest market is growing fast and expected to reach US$28 billion in 2026. We’re really excited about the commercial interest from potential partners around the world already.” 

The KiwiNet Emerging Innovator Programme is open to early career researchers based at universities and Crown Research Institutes across New Zealand. Programme recipients receive expert legal advice from KiwiNet corporate partner MinterEllisonRuddWatts and IP advice from Baldwins. The Norman Barry Foundation, which owns the Quality Hotel Parnell Limited, provided a donation of $25,000 for Michael’s work. 

John Smith, Chairman of the Norman Barry Foundation, says “It’s been wonderful to assist Michael to undertake a variety of commercialisation activities that will see his research turn into valuable pest control products on the world stage.” 

For further information, please email Dr Janice Cheng

Listen to the Radio New Zealand interview between Jesse Mulligan and Dr Michael Jackson.