Oxitec: The Innovative Mosquito Control for a Better Life

Innovation created by: Oxitec

Presentation written by: Naqvi Syed Hammad Raza, hammadrazaasab@gmail.com

Presentation supervised by: Assoc. Prof. Dr. Elena M. BARBU, elena.barbu@univ-grenoble-alpes.fr

 

1. Introduction to Oxitec

Oxitec is a pioneer in controlling insects that spread disease and damage crops. Through world class science they have developed an innovative new solution to controlling harmful insects’ pests. Their solution can help governments and communities around the world keep people healthy and increase food production, and to do so in a way which is sustainable, environmentally friendly and cost effective.

Oxitec is a subsidiary of Intrexon Corporation. A company located in United Kingdom with approximately 10 operating divisions working in different areas of synthetic biology.

Intrexon Corporation, founded in 1998, is a leader in synthetic biology focused on collaborating with companies in Health, Food, Energy, Environment and Consumer sectors to create biologically based products that improve quality of life and the health of the planet. Since the world’s population has more than doubled in the last fifty years eclipsing seven billion people and at present rates of expansion it is estimated the population will exceed nine billion within the next thirty-five years putting increasing strain on existing approaches across a variety of sectors.

Synthetic biology will play a fundamental role solving the many challenges of today and tomorrow across fields as diverse as medicine, agriculture, chemicals, food, manufacturing and energy, helping forge a sustainable path forward for current and future generations.

 

2. Context of the innovation:

To discuss the context on the innovation I want to introduce an important character known to science as Aedes aegypti mosquito. This character which smaller than the size of a 1 cent coin is probably the most dangerous organism in the world. It’s a female mosquito that has evolved years to feed itself exclusively on humans and is responsible for spreading a wide range of diseases including but not limited to Dengue, Chickengunya, ZIKA and Yellow fever. These diseases pose a serious threat human health causing a number of defects leading to deaths and an increasing amount of financial burden on the states.

Figure 1: Aedes Aegypti and Diseases it causes

Source: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/good-news-on-the-zika-front/article19151045.ece

 

3. Existing Solution and Its problem

The existing solution for the control of Aedes aegypti mosquito are limited to spraying chemicals but the problem with these chemicals is that not only the have a harmful effect on the environment but also they are not target specific, which means that they lead to the death of the beneficial insects as well along with the mosquitos. Also over years the Aedes aegypti mosquitos have developed resistance against these chemicals so they remain ineffective.

 

4. Oxitec’s innovative solution

Keeping in view the severity of the harm caused by these mosquitos and the ineffectively of existing control solutions, Oxitec has come up with a solution that is efficient, target specific and safe for environment.

Oxitec’s solution works in the following way. They use advanced genetics to insert a self-limiting gene into male mosquitoes, so when male Oxitec engineered mosquitoes are released into the wild and mate with wild females, their offspring inherit the self-limiting trait. The resulting offspring will die before reaching adulthood, and the local mosquito population will decline. The genetically engineered male mosquito is called OX513A. It’s a self-limiting strain of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Males, which do not bite or transmit disease, are released to mate with wild females. The offspring of such matings die before becoming adults.

Figure 2: Step-wise Representation of the Process (self-created)

 

5. Why is it responsible?

Sustainability

This approach relies on the natural mating instinct of a male insect, a method that is more cost-effective and targeted than alternatives.

The Oxitec approach is species-specific, unlike other control methods that will not distinguish between the target insect and other insects.

There is no significant residual impact to the environment.

Safety

Male insects are released (male mosquitoes do not bite or spread disease).

Oxitec insects are self-limiting so do not persist in the environment.

Male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes only mate and produce viable offspring with other female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, so DNA sequences cannot be spread to other insects by Oxitec mosquitoes.

No toxins are introduced into the insects as part of the engineering so there is no harm to birds or animals that eat them.

Oxitec complies with all national and international legislation. Insects are only transported, evaluated in a laboratory or released into the environment when all relevant regulatory approvals have been met.

Figure 3: Safety and Sustainability of Oxitec’s solution (self-created)

Sustainability Safety
This approach relies on the natural mating instinct of a male insect Male mosquitoes do not bite or spread disease so they don’t pose any harm.
Cost-effective and targeted than alternatives. Mating is specie specific so DNA sequences cannot be spread to other insects.
It is species-specific No toxins are introduced into the insects  so no harm to birds or animals that eat them.
No residual impact to the environment. Compliance with all national and international legislation.

 

6. Current performance stats and status:

Five efficacy trials have taken place in Brazil, Panama, and the Cayman Islands. These have all demonstrated that releases of Oxitec’s self-limiting mosquitoes results in reduction of the wild population by more than 90% – an unparalleled level of control. OX513A has also been successfully evaluated at a number of laboratories including at the Pasteur institute in Paris and at the WHO Collaborating Centre for Vectors at the Institute for Medical Research (IMR) in Malaysia. OX513A has demonstrated stable performance over 150 generations. OX513A has regulatory approvals for import and contained testing in Brazil, Cayman Islands, France, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, USA and Vietnam.

 

7. Why is it responsible and strategic?

This innovation is responsible and strategic since it aims to control the population of the specific mosquitos that cause a lot of harm to human health around the world and billions of dollars are spent to fight against them. With this innovation, countries can reduce the incidence of diseases like Yellow Fever, Dengue, and Chickengunya and hence save billions of dollars as well as improve the health of their citizens. Also since this innovation targets specifically the harmful mosquitos and doesn’t harms the environment it is responsible towards the environment as well.

 

References:

Link to Video:

http://www.oxitec.com/oxitecs-eco-friendly-solution-addresses-challenges-aedes-aegypti-mosquito/

Webography:

https://whitsundaysplusmore.com.au/mackay-isaac-whitsunday-innovation/

http://www.oxitec.com/

https://s3.amazonaws.com/cdn.oxitec.com/wp-content/uploads/Self_Limiting_Gene_Infographic_800px1.png?331e5c

https://www.dna.com/

http://www.oxitec.com/oxitecs-eco-friendly-solution-addresses-challenges-aedes-aegypti-mosquito/

http://www.vaccinenation.org/2014/04/11/dengue-mosquito-population-reduced-79-jacobina-bahia-using-oxitec-solution/

https://www.dallasnews.com/news/news/2016/05/03/mutant-mosquitoes-battle-zika-virus

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/good-news-on-the-zika-front/article19151045.ece