Jennifer Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley, and Emmanuelle Charpentier, director of the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work to develop CRISPR/Cas9. This was the first time that two female scientists have won the prize, approximately £861K to be shared equally between the laureates.

The Nobel Prize Committee highlighted that the “genetic scissors” have already benefited humankind greatly, despite having been discovered less than a decade ago. According to scientists, the technology has the potential to help fight many diseases in the future, including malaria, dengue, Zika and even cancer. It could also potentially help address current biodiversity loss trends and other environmental challenges.

The Application of Novel Transgenic technology and Inherited symbionts to Vector Control (ANTI-VeC) will host its annual meeting online this year due to COVID-19 restrictions. Registration is free and the four weekly webinars will take place every Thursday from November 19 to December 10. ANTI-VeC is a UK-based network with the aim of facilitating the development of novel control strategies for vector-borne diseases with importance to human and animal health in low and middle-income countries.

This year’s meeting will centre around the results of 11 ANTI-VeC funded projects awarded in 2018. Dr Jeremy Herren (International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, Kenya) will present the results of his highly promising research about the transmission blocking microbe Microsporidia MB, which provides protection against malaria in Anopheles mosquitoes. Dr Abdoulaye Diabate and Dr Etienne Bilgo (Institut de Recherche en Sciences de la Santé, Burkina Faso) will speak about co-infection of Wolbachia and the entomopathogenic fungus, Metarhizium pingshaense in the mosquito Aedes aegypti – their research which was recently awarded the 2019 Newcomb Cleveland Prize.

In 2017, scientists discovered a rare blood group variant found only in parts of East Africa that significantly increases the body’s natural resistance to malaria. It wasn’t until recently, however, that scientists started to understand how this rare blood type, called Dantu, boosts immunity to the disease. By analyzing the blood of 42 healthy children, researchers discovered that Dantu red blood cells are able to stop the Plasmodium falciparum by creating a tighter cell membrane which the parasite is unable to penetrate.

This finding represents another important step in the fight against malaria. Existing tools have not proven sufficient to eradicate the disease. The malaria vaccine, for example, is far from efficient, offering only 35% of protection against the disease. As mosquitoes’ resistance to insecticides and drugs increases, scientific discoveries such as this one, along with the development of new tools, are more topical than ever.

The complete study was published in Nature.

The European Parliament Intergroup on Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development will host the webinar “Research and innovation: What role for gene drive?” to support internal EU discussions on the new EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, as well as to help define the EU’s position for the CBD COP-15.

Speakers will provide an overview of the technology, the challenges it seeks to solve, and the research projects focused on public health and conservation. The event will also present the work that international and European bodies such as WHO, IUCN and EFSA are carrying out on gene drive.

Are you interested in participating? Register here.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) recently released the fifth edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-5), a periodic report that summarizes the latest data on biodiversity status and trends. This edition provides an overview of lessons learned over the past two decades, identifying eight necessary changes to meet governments’ commitment to “Living in Harmony with Nature” by 2050.

The report recognizes that none of the Aichi targets on biodiversity will be met in the expected time framework, even though there has been progress in some areas. In the case of invasive alien species (IAS), CBD highlights the advances made in identifying, prioritizing and investigating them, but concludes that there is no evidence of a slowing down in the number of new IAS introductions.