Objective

According to the World Health Organization’s 2017 World Malaria Report, an estimated 216 million cases of malaria occurred worldwide in 2016, with 90% of this total concentrated in the African region. Alarmingly, and despite an increased public health focus on the elimination of malaria, it is becoming clear that many countries will not be able to achieve this goal without considering novel management approaches. One control strategy in the early stages of development is the use of gene drive mechanisms to suppress or replace vector mosquito populations.

Collaborators & Partners

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH), New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), and the Government of Australia

Current Work

Mosquito Biology

Understanding vector biology is an important component of any disease management strategy and will be essential for assessing potential environmental risks that may be associated with the deployment of genetically engineered mosquitos. To that end, the Agriculture & Food Systems Institute and representatives from the governments of Brazil and Mexico served as convening lead authors of the OECD’s first biology document for an insect speciesAedes aeqypti, which was published in 2018. With the success of this first effort, a second mosquito biology document, describing Anopheles gambiae, is now underway. First proposed to the OECD by the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), the Agriculture & Food Systems Institute was very pleased to be asked to co-lead the drafting group with NEPAD and the Government of Australia. With funding from the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, the Agriculture & Food Systems Institute partnered with the OECD to convene a workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on March 14-15, 2019 that brought Anopheles experts together to advance the biology document.

Consultations on Problem Formulation for ERA of Gene Drive Mosquitoes

Between October 2016 and February 2018, NEPAD organized four regional consultations on the potential use of gene drives to combat malaria transmission through vector suppression. At the request of NEPAD, the Agriculture & Food Systems Institute assisted in setting the agenda for the scientific programs and guided participants through a problem formulation exercise to inform future work on risk assessment. These consultations served as an introduction to the basic principles of environmental risk assessment, as well as provided a critical opportunity to hear from regional risk assessors and stakeholders regarding potential risks that may be associated with deploying gene drive technology for this purpose. Together with NEPAD and FNIH, the Agriculture & Food Systems Institute is summarizing the outcomes of the four regional consultations in a manuscript that will be submitted for publication in 2019.

Resources

Genetic Biocontrol for Invasive Species

Sponsored by the OECD Co-operative Research Programme on Biological Resource Management for Sustainable Agricultural Systems, this workshop highlighted different approaches to the control of invasive species that make use of transgenic organisms engineered for introduction into a target population in order to reduce or eliminate it.

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Adding Biology to Mathematical Models of Gene Drive Spread in Populations: A Case Study of Engineered Underdominance

Part of the Agriculture & Food Systems Institute’s Gene Drive Modeling Conference Seminar Series, this presentation by Dr. Sumit Dhole focused on how simple mathematical models can be used to study expected gene drive behavior.

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Kick-off Meeting of the Ad-hoc Expert Group for Developing the OECD Consensus Document on the Biology of Mosquito Anopheles gambiae

As a first step in drafting an OECD Consensus Document on the Biology of Mosquito Anopheles gambiae, the Agriculture & Food Systems Institute, in partnership with the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) and the African Biosafety Network of Expertise (NEPAD-ABNE), hosted a meeting of Anopheles gambiae mosquito biology experts.

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Environmental Risk Assessment of Genetically Modified Crops and Insects: Lessons Learned from the Past and Next Steps in a Changing World

Dr. Andrew Roberts, Deputy Executive Director, delivered the presentation The Global Perspective on ERA Regulations for GE Crops and Insects at the Section Symposium: Environmental Risk Assessment of Genetically Modified Crops and Insects: Lessons Learned from the Past and Next Steps in a Changing World, which took place during the 2018 Entomology Society of America Annual Meeting in Vancouver, Canada.

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Gene Drive: 21st Century Genetic Control of Agricultural and Public Health Pests

Dr. Andrew Roberts, Deputy Executive Director, delivered the presentation Environmental Risk Assessment of Gene Drive Insects at the Section Symposium: Gene Drive: 21st Century Genetic Control of Agricultural and Public Health Pests, which took place during the 2018 Entomology Society of America Annual Meeting in Vancouver, Canada.

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Problem Formulation for Gene Drive Mosquitoes Designed to Reduce Malaria Transmission in Africa: Results from Four Regional Consultations 2016–2018

This summary publication captures the findings from four African consultations organized by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) to identify risk hypotheses and data needs for future environmental risk assessment of gene drives in the mosquito Anopheles gambiae.

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OECD Consensus Document of the Biology of Mosquito Aedes aegypti

Volume 8 of the series Safety Assessment of Transgenic Organisms in the Environment contains the first OECD biosafety consensus document to deal with the biology of an insect, the mosquito Aedes aegypti.

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Results from the Workshop “Problem Formulation for the Use of Gene Drive in Mosquitoes”

Reducing the incidence of malaria has been a public health priority for nearly a century. However, before new technologies and associated vector control strategies  can be developed and exploited, it will be necessary to understand and assess the likelihood of any potential harms to humans or the environment. To begin this process, the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health and the Agriculture & Food Systems Institute organized an expert workshop to consider the potential risks related to the use of gene drives in Anopheles gambiae for malaria control in Africa.

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