Diego Perrig is president of INDRASA Biotechnology SA, a company jointly created by Universidad Nacional de Río Cuarto and Rizobacter. Two years ago, he took up the challenge of this role and today he reasserts his commitment and enthusiasm. He talks to us about the objectives of the organization, what it is like to work in a space of public-private partnership and the lines of research which today awaken such passion and pride.
– If you had to define INDRASA in a few words, what would you say it is?
Indrasa is a company made up of young professionals who have many years of training and like what they do. That’s why we do things with great passion, without fear of great challenges and with a lot of ability to adapt ourselves to different conditions and demands. It is a company dedicated to the research and development of products which solve the problems of people and of agricultural production; Always with the premise of developing products that are more environmentally-friendly.
– What research projects are you working on?
Currently, we are working on 5 research projects for Rizobacter.
- Anti-stress proteins:The objective of this project is to increase the survival of the bacteria used to formulate inoculants against the desiccation they face when seeds are inoculated. The increase in the tolerance is given by the insertion of anti-stress gene proteins into the genetic material of the bacteria or by the direct addition of proteins to the inoculant.
- Desiccation tolerance: We are subjecting Bradyrhizobium japonicum cells to consecutive desiccation cycles to select the most tolerant cells with the final aim of obtaining populations adapted to these conditions.
- Biosurfactant compounds: In this project we are identifying and characterizing the genes responsible for the synthesis process of biosurfactant compounds in the bacteria. The final aim is to improve the quality and quantity of these compounds through molecular biology techniques.
- Synergistic project:The objective of this project is to increase he survival of Bradyrizobium japonicum against abiotic stress conditions – such as salinity and high temperatures – by the incorporation of osmoprotective macromolecules in the culture medium of the bacteria.
- Chemical fertilizers microbiolization:In this project we are isolating and developing microorganisms capable of surviving in different formulations of fertilizers, with the aim of increasing the root system volume of the fertilized crop.
Nevertheless, we have plenty of ideas for future projects, some of which we are working on out of curiosity when we have some free time in the lab and, although progress is slow, we are carrying them out.
– What is it like to work together with Universidad de Río Cuarto? Does the public-private partnership work well?
Working with the public system is very interesting since it gives us access to knowledge and equipment which would otherwise be impossible. On the other hand, it allows researchers to know what the demands of society are and apply their knowledge to the solution of concrete problems. The difficulties, sometimes, are the times of academic research and the demands from the market which are generally out of phase. I think that for the relationship to work both parties must fulfill their objectives: For us, obtaining information tested by scientific method and which encourages the development of new products; And for the researchers, the possibility of publishing the results of their scientific work at the university.
– We imagine that research is a fascinating world; Please tell us about a project you have worked on which makes you feel proud.
A project which we are working on and which seems to me to be very interesting is the development of a herbicide which makes use of fungal phyto-pathogen toxins (which make the plants become sick) to control the plants we don’t want to grow in the field, that is, weeds. Basically, it uses a compound, which naturally damages plants, to kill the plants we don’t want. This project could be summarized in the following saying: “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade”.
Beyond this topic, which is by itself very interesting, this project was also very important because we presented it last year at a competition organized by UBATEC, which is a company formed by Universidad Nacional de Buenos Aires (UBA) and Cámara Argentina de la Mediana Empresa (CAME), and we won the first prize. This award allowed us to acquire a gas chromatograph, which apart from being used for this project, allows us to measure several other important things, such as the capacity to fix bacterial atmospheric nitrogen and the nodules that are part of legumes, like soybeans.
– How do you picture the future of INDRASA?
I picture the future with great expectations and enthusiasm, generating information which turns into concrete products, and that these products generate genuine profits for Rizobacter and Indrasa. In this way, the company will be self-supporting and we will be able to finance for ourselves many more projects which we may find interesting.