2017 ACS International Award for Research in Agrochemicals

Sponsored by DuPont Crop Protection

Mechanisms of synergism for increased insecticidal action

Jeffrey Bloomquist obtained a B.S. degree from Purdue University (1978), an M.S. degree from Mississippi State University (1981), and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Riverside (1984), all in Entomology. He served as a postdoctoral associate and research associate at Cornell University in the laboratory of professor David Soderlund (1985-1988), before accepting a position with Rhone-Poulenc Ag Co. In 1989, Jeff became an assistant professor in the Department of Entomology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He attained the rank of full professor in 2003. He has established an internationally recognized program in neurotoxicology, including work on environmentally-induced Parkinsonism, as well as insecticide resistance and the search for new insecticidal molecules.

He produced some of the first papers on the Parkinsonian effects of neurotoxic insecticides and established up-regulation of the dopamine transporter (DAT) as a new biomarker for neurotoxic insult in animal models. The central findings of this work were cited as justification for an NIH grant program (RFA ES-00-002, Background section) The Role of the Environment in Parkinson’s Disease. Related studies demonstrated a linkage between exposure to mitochondrial-directed insecticides, Parkinsonism, and diabetes.

More recently, professor Bloomquist was lead P.I. on one of the original proposals funded by the FNIH/Grand Challenges in Global Health program. This project was one of only 43 funded out of >1500 applications, and the approach of using bivalent acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors to increase selectivity and safety was specifically mentioned in a column written by Bill Gates in the Oct 1, 2007 edition of Newsweek calling for increased efforts to fight malaria. A subsequent NIAID-funded project on neglected tropical diseases identified new carbamates having up to 1000-fold selectivity for malaria mosquito AChE compared to human AChE (US Patent # 8,129,428).

Since moving to the University of Florida in 2009 as a member of the new Emerging Pathogens Institute, professor Bloomquist is supervising several projects on malaria and zika control. The main goal of an FNIH-funded VCTR project was to optimize the neurotoxic action and insecticidal efficacy of chemistries acting upon insect potassium channels, an under-exploited target site. Recent work has shown the potential of these compounds to synergize the pyrethroid, permethrin.

Research under the Deployed War Fighter Research Program investigated the mode of action and neurotoxicity of the insect repellent, DEET, recently claimed by other investigators to be neurotoxic to humans via AChE inhibition. These studies found that DEET has low toxicity and is a poor anticholinesterase inhibitor, findings that suggest the use of DEET as a repellent does not pose a serious neurotoxic hazard to humans. His group also identified a series of novel fluorinated phenylalkylamides with insecticidal and repellent activity equal to or exceeding that of DEET.

Jeff has recently initiated a program of plant-based chemical screening in collaboration with Dr. Nur Tabanca of the USDA subtropical horticulture laboratory in Miami, Florida and laboratories in Italy, Turkey, and Brazil. Plant extracts and identified plant compounds are screened for biological activity and novel modes of action. These efforts represent a new area of research for the Bloomquist laboratory and an effort to leverage natural products as “green chemistry.” Finally, he is Co-P.I. on a new five year CDC award (Southeastern Regional Center of Excellence in Vector Borne Diseases: Gateway Program), for which his group will develop novel essential oils or other mixtures for control of Aedes aegypti, the main vector of Zika in Florida.