|Industry||Biotechnology, Pest Control|
|Founded||Oxford, United Kingdom (2002 )|
Intrexon Corporation dna|
Oxitec (orig. Oxford Insect Technologies) is a British biotechnology company which develops genetically modified insects to assist in insect control. The company develops methods for control of insect populations, in which genetically modified insects are used as a "living insecticide". Thereby, insects which transmit disease to humans or which occur as pests in agriculture are controlled without the use of insecticides. According to the company, this method of population control is more effective than insecticides and more environmentally friendly. The method has similarities to sterile insect technique.
OX5034, a new generation of Oxitec's gene drive mosquitoes began field trials on May 23, 2018 in Indaiatuba, a municipality in the Brazilian state of São Paulo. The trial was to cover 2,000 residents to suppress A. aegypti.
OX5034 male offspring survive, allowing additional mating cycles that further reduce the pest population. This function is time-limited. In subsequent generations fewer and fewer males pass on their self-limiting genes. OX5034 males were expected to disappear from the environment 10 generations after releases stop.
Transgenic yellow fever mosquito
Oxitec is working to develop a genetically modified version of Aedes aegypti to help control the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases. Oxitec created genetically altered males of the species (OX513A) that produce the protein tTA, which negatively affects cell development. The transgenic animals need the antibiotic tetracycline to survive. If these animals are released in large numbers and mate with females, antibiotic dependence is passed to the next generation and the offspring die. Thus, the Aedes aegypti population is greatly reduced and thereby the risk for the people in that region of contracting a mosquito-born disease. In 2017 Oxitec was developing a genetically modified version of the Asian tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus.
First field trials were performed on Grand Cayman, the largest island of the Cayman Islands, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, starting in 2009. Approximately 3.3 million of the transgenic male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes were released. The experiments demonstrated that the animals were able to survive in this environment and produce offspring. Some eleven weeks after the release, a decline in the A. aegypti mosquito population by about 80% was observed. Larger-scale releases could result in higher reductions. The tests were deemed a success by scientists but criticism emerged over communication policy. In May 2016 Grand Cayman announced a program to use Oxitec mosquitoes to combat the virus. The first phase informed the community about the programme. The next phase treated an area with about 1,800 residents in West Bay and 88% less Aedes aegypti mosquito eggs were found compared to an equivalent untreated area.
In 2011 another field test took place in Brazil in cooperation with the company Moscamed and the University of São Paulo, in which transgenic A. aegypti mosquitoes were released in large numbers and the mosquito population declined by 80–95%. More field trials were carried out in Malaysia and Panama. Another field trial was planned in Florida in 2016, but was cancelled. In 2016 the World Health Organisation encouraged field trials of transgenic male A. aegypti mosquitoes to try to halt the spread of the Zika virus.
Brazil’s health-regulatory agency, Anvisa, declared on 12 April 2016 that it would regulate Oxitec’s mosquitoes. Anvisa announced that it was creating a legal framework for regulations. It requested Oxitec to demonstrate that its technology was safe and could reduce the transmission of mosquito-borne viruses.
The Netherlands agreed to release Oxitec’s genetically modified mosquitoes to fight dengue, chikungunya and zika in Saba, a Dutch Caribbean island, after a report by The National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) examined the effects that these mosquitoes could have in the local ecosystem and concluded the release of the mosquitoes would not pose risks to human health or the environment. The French High Council for Biology supported (with caution) Oxitec mosquito releases.
- The Oxitec approach. Oxitech
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