By Karen Poiani, Island Conservation

This year's Invasive Species Awareness Week, which runs from February 20 to 26, aims to raise awareness of the impact that invasive alien species have on biodiversity and the urgency of taking action to address this issue. The Convention on Biological Diversity defines invasive alien species (IAS) as species that threaten biological diversity through their introduction and/or spread outside of their natural habitat. Invasive species can harm their non-native ecosystems, threatening native species and overall biodiversity.

By Ana Kormos, University of California Malaria Initiative (UCMI)

In January 2023, the University of California Malaria Initiative (UCMI) formally inaugurated new project facilities at our field site in São Tomé and Príncipe (STP). The UCMI program mission is to contribute to the elimination of malaria by genetically modifying mosquito populations and to do this work in direct collaboration and partnership with our national partners in STP.

In partnership with the University of São Tomé and Príncipe (USTP) and the Ministry of Health, UCMI completed the development of a new molecular biology research laboratory located on the USTP campus. The formal inauguration of the laboratory was conducted on January 21, 2023. On the occasion, the UCMI program also presented full scholarship awards to four biology students for advanced degree study at our international partner institution, the Institute of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (IHMT) in Lisbon.

Inaugurating the laboratory at the University of São Tomé and Príncipe (USTP). Photograph: UCMI

Understanding the possible positive and negative impacts that gene drive organisms could have on the environment and people is essential before these technologies can be considered for release. While environmental risks can be evaluated through specific risk assessments, an Environmental, Socio-economic, and Health Impact Assessment (ESHIA) can be useful to assess other dimensions, such as a gene drive organism’s potential consequences on a social, economic and health level.  

In collaboration with the Outreach Network for Gene Drive Research, the ISAAA SEAsia Center published a new policy brief on the topic, titled Environmental, Socio-economic, and Health Impact Assessment (ESHIA) for Gene Drive Organisms. The policy brief outlines the characteristics of an ESHIA and provides an overview of the steps typically undertaken during such an assessment, complemented with potential examples tailored to different types of gene drive technologies.

As we step into 2023, we reflect on the successes and achievements of the year gone by and anticipate the promise of a new one. 2022 was an eventful year for the Outreach Network for Gene Drive Research, marked by a number of new findings and successful studies.

After two weeks of extensive negotiations, the most important gathering on biodiversity in many years concluded on December 19th. The Fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) saw the long-awaited adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). It defines the roadmap for governments and other stakeholders to conserve the world’s biodiversity over the next decade and beyond. 

A key part of the GBF is a set of Goals and Targets to guide action until 2050. There are several targets relevant to gene drive research, which emphasize the role of science and innovation in supporting the achievement of the GBF. Increasing scientific cooperation, access to scientific information, access to innovation and technology, and raising awareness on the critical role of science, are featured in Targets 20 and 21, as well as in Section C and Section K (g). The text of Section I also recognizes the need for cooperation for capacity building and transfer of technologies.