The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently released the updated version of the Guidance Framework for Testing of Genetically Modified Mosquitoes, including those incorporating gene drive. The publication intends to inform future research and development on genetically modified mosquitoes, describing best practices to ensure that the study and evaluation of genetically modified mosquitoes as public health tools is safe, ethical and rigorous.

According to Dr Soumya Swaminathan, WHO Chief Scientist, genetically modified mosquitoes have raised hopes for the availability of new, potent and cost-effective tools to fight vector-borne diseases. He also emphasised the need to conduct careful and rigorous testing, including under natural conditions, to ensure that genetically modified mosquitoes are effective and safe.

The Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University, is hiring three experts in risk and ethics in the use of synthetic biology to address the climate and ecological crisis. All positions are based at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Synthetic Biology and open to international applicants.

Ana Kormos, Engagement Program Manager, University of California Irvine Malaria Initiative (UCIMI) 

The University of California Irvine Malaria Initiative (UCIMI) describes their approach to site selection for field trials of genetically engineered mosquitoes (GEM) in a manuscript that is currently available online in bioRxiv. The site selection framework is specifically for GEM with gene drive for malaria control in Africa and is employed by UCIMI as part of their research program. The paper is titled "Selection of sites for field trials of genetically engineered mosquitoes with gene drive".

The stated goal of the framework is to identify a site that maximizes prospects for success, minimizes risk, and serves as a fair, valid, and convincing test of efficacy and impacts of a GEM product intended for eventual large-scale deployment in Africa. Site selection criteria prioritizes geographical, geological, and biological considerations, leading to the proposition that physical islands are the best candidates for field trials. UCIMI presents in the paper consideration of 22 African island sites, 5 islands within 2 island groups satisfy selection criteria within the framework and meet the stated goal.

The severity of the biodiversity crisis requires bold actions. A singularly cautionary response to new technologies is not appropriate if the world intends to revert biodiversity loss and avoid further extinctions. The journal Conservation Science and Practice recently released its special issue announcing the Intended Consequences Initiative, which calls for rebalancing the risk-benefit equation when considering conservation interventions.

Brian B. Tarimo, Ifakara Health Institute

On April 25, we celebrate World Malaria Day. Malaria prevention, diagnosis and treatment programmes have prevented 1.5 billion cases and saved 7.6 million lives in the past decade. These numbers are undoubtedly impressive; however, we are still far away from a malaria-free world.

The burden of malaria is highest in tropical and subtropical regions. According to the 2020 World Malaria report by WHO, 94% of all malaria cases occurred in Africa. I am from Tanzania and, throughout my life, I have seen members of family and friends fighting the disease several times. I have also had malaria several times.

I have dedicated my career to eradicating malaria and other vector-borne diseases. As a research scientist, I could not stress enough the need for novel tools and methods to fight these diseases. Africa stands to accrue the most benefits from any interventions for malaria control approved for widescale application, including gene drive mosquitoes.