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Industry Biotechnology, Pest Control
Founded Oxford, United Kingdom (2002 (2002))
Key people
  • Luke Alphey (Founder)
Parent Intrexon Corporation dna.com
Website oxitec.com

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.[1] The method has similarities to sterile insect technique.


Oxitec was started in 2002 by Oxford University's Isis Innovation technology transfer company.[2][3] In August 2015 Oxitec was purchased by U.S.-based Intrexon in a deal valued at $160 million.[4]

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.[5]

Transgenic yellow fever mosquito[edit]

Oxitec is working to develop a genetically modified version of Aedes aegypti to help control the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases.[6][7] 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.[8][9] In 2017 Oxitec was developing a genetically modified version of the Asian tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus.[10]

Field trials[edit]

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.[11] 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.[12][13][14]

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%.[15][16] More field trials were carried out in Malaysia and Panama.[17][18] Another field trial was planned in Florida in 2016, but was cancelled.[19][20] 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.[21]


OX513A was approved by Brazil's National Biosecurity Technical Commission (CTNBio) in April 2014.[22]It was used to try to combat the Zika in f Piracicaba, São Paulo in 2016.[23]

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.[24]

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)[25] 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.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Oxitec approach. Oxitech
  2. ^ Cookson, Clive (23 April 2015). "'Lethal gene' to combat malaria relies on laws of attraction". Financial Times. Retrieved 22 May 2015. 
  3. ^ Solon, Olivia (25 April 2012). "Oxford academics tentatively embrace startup culture". Wired UK. Retrieved 22 May 2015. 
  4. ^ Nickel, Rod (15 September 2015). "Market turbulence or not, North American investors plow into farm tech". Reuters. Retrieved 9 October 2015. 
  5. ^ "Oxitec Launches Field Trial in Brazil for Next Generation Addition to Friendly™ Mosquitoes Platform - Oxitec". Oxitec. 2018-05-25. Retrieved 2018-07-13. 
  6. ^ Free, Stephen (16 May 2015). "Can genetically modified mosquitoes curb Dengue fever?". PBS NewsHour. Retrieved 22 May 2015. 
  7. ^ Jennings, Christian (28 April 2015). "Mosquitoes Really Do Prefer Some People to Others, Say Scientists". Newsweek. Retrieved 22 May 2015. 
  8. ^ Subbaraman, Nidhi (2011-01-01). "Science snipes at Oxitec transgenic-mosquito trial". Nature Biotechnology. 29 (1): 9–11. doi:10.1038/nbt0111-9a. ISSN 1087-0156. PMID 21221085. 
  9. ^ Julia Paoli: Genetically Modified Mosquitoes Pave the Way for Dengue Fever Prevention, Nature Publishing Group, 15 September 2014
  10. ^ Rufford, Nick (2017-08-27). "How genetically engineered mosquitoes will save lives". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 2017-09-01. 
  11. ^ Nidhi Subbaraman: Science snipes at Oxitec transgenic-mosquito trial. In: Nature Biotechnology 29, 2011, S. 9–11.
  12. ^ "Taking a swat at Cayman's mosquitoes". Cayman Compass. 2017-01-26. Retrieved 2017-09-01. 
  13. ^ "Press Release: Grand Cayman will use Oxitec solution to suppress wild Aedes aegypti, the dangerous mosquito that spreads dengue, Zika and chikungunya, in an effort to help eliminate these diseases | Oxitec". www.oxitec.com. Retrieved 2016-05-07. 
  14. ^ Whittaker, James (2017-06-15). "Islandwide GM mosquito release approved". Cayman Compass. Retrieved 2017-09-01. 
  15. ^ Carvalho, Danilo; et al. (2 July 2015). "Suppression of a Field Population of Aedes aegypti in Brazil by Sustained Release of Transgenic Male Mosquitoes". PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. 9: e0003864. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0003864. PMC 4489809Freely accessible. PMID 26135160. 
  16. ^ Michael Specter: Can genetic modification eliminate a deadly tropical disease? The New Yorker, 9 July 2012
  17. ^ "Oxitec's Genetically Modified Mosquitoes: A Credible Approach to Dengue Fever?" (PDF). March 2015. 
  18. ^ "Panama trial begins". 
  19. ^ "Genetically Engineered Animals - Oxitec Mosquito". US Food and Drug Administration; Animal and Veterinary. 2017-02-05. Retrieved 2017-09-01. 
  20. ^ "Preliminary Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) In Support of an Investigational Field Trial of OX513A Aedes aegypti Mosquitoes" (PDF). US FDA. March 2016. Retrieved 14 March 2016. 
  21. ^ Kelland, Kate (18 March 2016). "WHO backs trials of genetically modified mosquitoes to fight Zika". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 19 March 2016. 
  22. ^ Tracy Thompson: Oxitec’s solution for controlling the dengue mosquito is approved by CTNBio. Oxitech, 11 April 2014
  23. ^ Pollack, Andrew (30 January 2016). "New Weapon to Fight Zika: The Mosquito". New York Times. Retrieved 16 March 2016. 
  24. ^ Lopes, Reinaldo Jose (22 April 2016). "Why transgenic insects are still not ready for prime time". Nature News & Comment. Retrieved 2016-04-22. 
  25. ^ Glandorf, DCM (6 July 2017). "Technical evaluation of a potential release of OX513A Aedes aegypti mosquitoes on the island of Saba". National Institute of Public Health and the Environment. Retrieved 2017-07-10. 
  26. ^ Fernandez, Clara Rodriguez (2017-07-12). "Update: France and the Netherlands deem Oxitec's GM Mosquitoes Safe". Labiotech. Retrieved 2017-09-01. 

External links[edit]