Michael Elliott was the leader of work at Rothamsted that invented and subsequently commercially developed the pyrethroids, a new class of insecticides. Michael made probably the greatest individual contribution to the control of insect pests that not only constrain global food production but also affect the health of ourselves and our livestock. In one of the first pioneering structure–activity relationship studies, Michael led the multidisciplinary team that invented the major pyrethroid insecticides bioresmethrin, permethrin, cypermethrin and deltamethrin. In the 1980s these represented two-thirds of the global pyrethroid market; at that time pyrethroids captured more than 25% of the total insecticide market and were used on 33 million hectares of crops (Wirtz et al. 2009). In 2002 deltamethrin was the world's largest-selling pyrethroid, with annual sales worth $208 million (information from Cropnosis Ltd). In terms of human health, in 2009 it was estimated that pyrethroid-treated bednets significantly decreased the number of deaths due to malaria among children under five years of age by about one-fifth as well as reducing all incidents of malaria, and in 2011 the World Health Organization recommended its vastly expanded use.
Wirtz, K., Bala, S., Amann, A. & Elbert, A. 2009 A promise extended—future roles of pyrethroids in agriculture. Bayer CropSci. J. 62, 145–158.
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Published by the Royal Society