Create a new, revolutionizing product: The “Oak Shield”, a biological and environmentally friendly insecticide against an invasive species known as the Oak Processionary Caterpillar (OPC). Oak Shield aims to specifically target the OPC, instead of affecting other insects and caterpillars in the way current methods do.


The OPC is a local problem for the Central European area. In the Netherlands, it was estimated to affect over 100.000 people in 2019 (, 2019). The toxic hairs of the caterpillar produce serious symptoms when they come in contact with humans, causing rashes and/or itching sensations, conjunctivitis, and even inducing respiratory complications (Maier et al., 2003; Rahlenbeck & Utikal, 2015). The caterpillar is considered a pest in nature, as it causes damage to the oak ecosystem (EFSA, 2009).


The OPC is native to Southern and Middle Europe. Nonetheless, climate change has been thought to aid and advance the spread, allowing the OPC to establish significant populations in Western and Northern areas of Europe, including France, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, and the UK (van Oudenhoven, van Vliet & Moraal, 2008).


The team uses small interfering RNA molecules (siRNAs) to target genes that are only found in the OPC genome; these findings are cross-checked to make sure Oak Shield does not affect other fauna. Dry lab simulations were conducted to evaluate whether the siRNA would be effective in creating a gene knockout. Once the suitable genes were identified, the wet lab team aimed to create a bacterium that would be able to produce the desired siRNAs.


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