Malaria is an age-old disease that despite being preventable and treatable continues to affect the lives of over 200 million people each year. Nearly two-thirds of global deaths from the disease in 2019 were children under five, and mostly concerned the African continent. Over the past few decades, a variety of tools - such as insecticide-treated mosquito nets, indoor residual spraying of homes, rapid diagnostic tests, and new treatments and prophylactics - were successfully added to the arsenal of malaria interventions. Although these tools have enabled incredible progress, it is clear they will not be sufficient to eliminate the disease.

The UK-based charity Comic Relief has launched a new project to enhance awareness of the importance to fight malaria. Mixing science and entertainment, the initiative selected three African filmmakers to reframe the malaria narrative using their creativity to appeal to local audiences while educating the public.

Researchers suggest that at least 900 species have gone extinct in the last five centuries. Several fauna and flora are either on the brink of or heading towards extinction today. Genetic rescue efforts using genomics or synthetic biology may be a solution to current conservation challenges.

The fear of unintended consequences should not suppress research and innovation. Inaction will result in more biodiversity loss when biotechnology could lead to a possible solution. Instead of focusing on unintended consequences, it is necessary to have a more balanced conversation and take the “Intended Consequences” of what can potentially be achieved through the use of genetic tools.

Researchers at The Pirbright Institute have successfully edited the genes of the southern house mosquito. The female of this species is the vector responsible for avian malaria transmission - a key contributor to the extinction of several species of birds - and for spreading human diseases such as lymphatic filariasis (commonly known as elephantiasis) and the West Nile virus.

The results of this study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, showed that the gene-editing tool CRISPR/Cas9 could be used to introduce a gene for a fluorescent protein into the genome of the mosquito, which was successfully inherited by its offspring. In the future, the same technique could be used to spread a desired trait (such as the inability to spread a disease or to produce fertile offspring) through the southern house mosquito’s population.

The IUCN World Conservation Congress is taking place in Marseilles September 3rd to 11th, in a hybrid virtual and physical format. As part of its virtual aspects, it has made available to the general public over 150 e-posters and presentations prepared by conference attendees on a myriad of issues vital to ongoing attempts to halt biodiversity loss. These include several prepared by the members of the Outreach Network for Gene Drive Research and other researchers on topics related to gene drive. They will be available to all for the duration of the Congress, and those who have registered virtually will be able to ask questions or leave comments on them.

Check the e-posters below!