Gates Foundation Awards $4.1 Million for Mosquito Engineering

Gates Foundation Awards $4.1 Million for Mosquito Engineering

Oxford-based genetic engineering firm Oxitec has announced a partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a new strain of mosquitoes to combat the spread of malaria.

The project will build on Oxitec’s successful deployment of a self-limiting mosquito strain designed to reduce the spread of dengue, Zika, and other diseases and apply the technology to Anopheles mosquitoes that spread malaria in endemic regions in the Americas, eastern Africa, and South Asia. A $4.1 million grant from the foundation will fund the development of a strain of Anopheles albimanus males with a self-limiting gene designed to ensure that, when they mate with wild females, only their male offspring survive into adulthood. Since only female mosquitoes bite, deploying genetically engineered males as part of a vector-control program could dramatically reduce the wild population of mosquitoes that can transmit malaria.

"Vector control has played a critical role in reducing cases and deaths due to malaria over the past fifteen years," said Philip Welkhoff, director of the malaria program at the Gates Foundation. "With further progress stalled at present, continued innovation of new and transformational interventions is critical to realizing the goal of a world free of malaria. Successful burden reduction and elimination will require a range of technologies for different geographies and challenges. Genetically modified mosquitoes are showing promise in controlling other vector-borne diseases, so we look forward to exploring their use alongside complementary interventions for malaria."