Written by Samantha O’Loughlin, Target Malaria
(This is the third of a series of six posts about common gene drive misconceptions)

Gene drive has the potential to solve several environmental and human health challenges we are facing today, including biodiversity loss and the transmission of diseases like malaria, Zika and dengue. But it will take a while before we see the application of this technology in the environment. Ongoing gene drive research is still working to respond to whether it is possible and appropriate to use the technology, taking also into consideration potential human health and environmental impacts.

A new spatial and temporal modeling study captures the evolution of malaria incidence by region from 2000 to 2017 using higher-resolution maps. The findings will help decision-makers to identify with great precision the most critical regions, improving resource allocation, program planning and implementation, and monitoring initiatives. The research focused on malaria cases caused by the Plasmodium falciparum (Pf) parasite, the most virulent type of the disease, which is mainly concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Written by Samantha O’Loughlin, Target Malaria

(This is the second of a series of six posts about common gene drive misconceptions. To read my first blog, about the difference between gene drive and CRISPR, go here)

So do you think creating a gene drive organism is easy?? The short and simple answer is no. It will take time before gene drive can be harnessed to be a useful tool for conversation or health purposes. Gene drive is not easy, at least not at the moment. Although gene editing is becoming easier with the advent of CRISPR/Cas9, gene drive is still very complicated to develop and involves specialised equipment and many person-hours. It is certainly not something that you can do in your garden shed! Although the development costs are not high compared with many other technologies, it is still not cheap. The equipment alone would cost hundreds of thousands of US dollars, and that is just for a start; you will need a lot more funds if you want to know whether your gene drive is working and whether it will still work in a natural setting.

Deforestation, industrialization and climate change are constantly listed as the main causes of the increasing list of endangered species. However, the impacts of human activities in biodiversity can be traced back to the 1500s. Rats and mice were common passengers of many boats during the exploration era and found their route to thousands of islands worldwide. Today, invasive rodents are present in 80% of the world’s islands, putting other species at great risk. It is estimated that 75% of extinctions have happened on islands and mice and rats are the primary cause of it, according to Karen Poiani, CEO of Island Conservation.

Written by Samantha O’Loughlin, Target Malaria

(This is the first of a series of six posts about common gene drive misconceptions)

In my work as a population genetics expert for Target Malaria, I travel to many meetings where I talk to people about our project to develop gene drive mosquitoes for reducing malaria in Africa. A few common misconceptions about gene drive come up again and again. This short series of myth-busting aims to address exactly that, contributing to an informed and open debate about this technology that can potentially help to solve many conservation and public health challenges.