In a recent edition, The Biologist magazine explores how gene drive works and how it could potentially benefit the environment, public health and agriculture. Scientists from the Roslin Institute (University of Edinburgh) broadly explain the main strategies genes can use to achieve ‘drive’, interference and over-replication, as well as the current state of CRISPR-based gene drive research. Although optimistic about the tool, the authors highlight that, before releasing gene drive organisms, it is necessary to conduct an in-depth analysis of their ecological impacts, a case-by-case risk assessment and meaningful engagement with potentially affected communities.

The Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) released the Zero Draft of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, which will form the basis for the second round of its negotiation next month in Kunming (China). The draft results from numerous Party submissions, several regional and thematic consultations, and the outcomes of other relevant CBD meetings.

The document contains background information, an introduction and recommendations of goals and targets for the new Framework. There is one target related to biosafety, aiming to prevent the potential adverse impacts of biotechnology on biodiversity. The target suggested focuses on the implementation of the Cartagena Protocol, sound risk assessment and the necessary legal and administrative biosafety measures to avoid and manage the potential adverse impacts.

Experts in conservation, invasive species and park management recently published a study in the journal Biological Invasions about how US National parks are struggling to protect their national habitats and wildlife. The spread of invasive species is to blame. To overcome this challenge, the authors recommend coordination among stakeholders and the appropriate use of emerging technologies.

The paper presents a detailed review of the invasive species and their management by the National Park Service. The invaders include mammals such as rats, cats, and feral pigs; aquatic species like lake trout and the quagga mussel; and reptiles, including the Burmese python. Statistics reveal that of the 1,409 reported populations of 311 invasive animal species in national parks, there are management plans for 23% and only 11% are being contained.

The Outreach Network of Gene Drive Research is pleased to announce that Revive & Restore is the latest organization to join the Network. Revive & Restore is a leading conservation organization promoting the incorporation of genetic tools into standard conservation practice to rescue endangered and extinct species. Revive & Restore is developing a spectrum of applications for these new tools that range from providing innovative genetic insights and rescue tools for persistent conservation challenges to reversing the inexorable demise of critically imperilled species.

The year 2019 was very busy for global policy on gene drive, and 2020 will not be any different. Next year is marked by two milestones that will shape biodiversity policies and actions for the next coming decades, and in doing so shape the research environment on gene drive: the IUCN World Conservation Congress (WCC) and the adoption of the CBD Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Synthetic biology is among the topics that will be under intense negotiations in both policy fronts. In fact, it already is.

2019 has been a year of preparation for these two milestones. Numerous regional and thematic consultations took place to inform the negotiations at the IUCN and CBD levels. This year also saw the launch of relevant reports that will, directly or indirectly, continue to shape perceptions and discussions of gene drive research. The IPBES’ report, WHO World Malaria Report, The Lance Commission’s report on Malaria and IUCN report on synthetic biology are a few of them.