Oxitec insects preventing disease and securing food supply

Posted on 27 Aug 2013

Oxford-based company Oxitec is using genetically modified insects to fight insect-borne diseases and reduce crop destruction.

Trials in Brazil in June demonstrated suppression of the Brazilian dengue mosquito with other applications of the same technology having already been used in the control of crop destroying insects.

Based on technology by molecular biologist Dr Luke Alphey and colleagues at Oxford University’s Department of Zoology, Oxitec breed and release sterile male mosquitoes into the wild. This highly targeted form of biological control is safe to other species and is claimed to cause no lasting impact to the environment.

Haydn Parry, CEO of Oxitec, one of the Technology Strategy Board 'Success Stories'.

Company CEO Hadyn Parry sees his company on the “verge of something big”.

“Oxitec’s ground-breaking green weapon in the war against insects highlights once again that a small British company can be a world leader, and as a result of our work in Brazil we’ve got inquiries pouring in. All our hard work has paid off and I think it is fair to say we are on the verge of something big.”

Mr Perry highlighted the role of the Technology Strategy Board and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) in providing Oxitec with funding when it needed move to their research forward.

Dengue fever is the fastest-growing mosquito-borne disease on the planet. A common viral infection, it spreads from biting mosquitoes and is then passed onto other subjects by mosquitoes picking up the virus from human hosts.

The Brazilian dengue fever programme from Oxitec involved releasing genetically modified mosquitoes into an area populated by over 50,000 people, with a new subsidiary being opened in Brazil as a result.

Oxitec has established commercial partnerships in Europe, Brazil and India following trials in Asia and the Cayman Islands.

Parry said the UK is now a world leader with no other technology like Oxitec’s currently available.

“Now Britain is a world leader – no other country in the world has the technology we now have in our hands to actually combat disease in a green and relatively inexpensive way. There is nothing else out there.

“For the first time, with our Mosquito trials in Brazil, we have a benchmark that we can demonstrate to governments to show what we can actually do. That is why the mosquito research and development in Brazil was so important.”

This article was reproduced from the original on the Technology Strategy Board’s website, linked here – https://www.innovateuk.org/-/oxitec-winning-the-war-against-insects