By Dr. Brian Tarimo, Senior Research Scientist, Ifakara Health Institute
Following the success of its 2022 Gene Drive Short Course, this year the Pan-African Mosquito Control Association (PAMCA) held two training courses on gene drive technologies as part of its 9th Annual Conference and Exhibition in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. As a conference participant, I had the privilege of facilitating one of these courses: "Foundation Gene Drive Short Course", along with colleagues from The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) and Target Malaria.
The aim of the Foundation Gene Drive Short Course was to provide participants with a basic technical understanding of gene drive technologies, how they work, and their potential use in the fight against vector-borne diseases, such as malaria. Attendees came from a diverse range of professional backgrounds and featured policymakers, journalists, as well as representatives from NGOs and CSOs.
Dr. Brian Tarimo and attendees of PAMCA’s Foundation Gene Drive Short Course. Photograph: PAMCA.
During the one-day course, participants were invited to explore a number of different modules, and covered topics ranging from the basics of genetic inheritance to vector control, to genetic modification and gene drive technologies. This year a fifth module on stakeholder engagement and regulatory considerations was added to the training, owing to the importance that these practices have during the development process of gene drive technologies.
I personally facilitated a module on vector control. As part of this, I gave an overview of the status of the global fight against malaria and covered previous and present vector control tools, whilst specifically highlighting some of the challenges these tools are facing. I finalized my presentation by explaining why scientists working in malaria are thinking outside the box and investigating the potential use of gene drive mosquitoes as an approach that could overcome some of the challenges that current tools are facing.
Panelists, organizers and attendees of PAMCA’s Foundation Gene Drive Short Course. Photograph: PAMCA.
Overall, this was a very exciting course which prompted a number of interesting questions and comments from participants. Exchanges during the course and broader Conference and Exhibition were also very stimulating and encouraging. I can confidently say that the participants left this course with new knowledge and understanding of gene drive mosquitoes and how this approach could work as a potential new tool for malaria control.