US syn bio corporation diving into GM mosquitoes, pest control research

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Oxitec, a University spin-out developing new ways of controlling disease-carrying insects and pests, is to be sold to a major U.S. corporation for U.S. $160m.

Intrexon Corporation, a leader in synthetic biology, has agreed to acquire Oxitec, spun out from research in the Department of Zoology, in a deal worth £9 million to the University.

Oxitec was founded in 2002 by Zoology researchers, Luke Alphey and David Kelly. The company uses a genetic modification technique they invented, to design strains of insects which are incapable of reproducing effectively. These ‘sterile’ strains can be mass reared and then released into the wild, causing a population crash removing that particular insect species.

The technology has implications for the control of disease-carrying mosquitoes. The company has made significant progress in addressing dengue fever, which is carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito and infects up to 390 million people worldwide every year. Trials in Grand Cayman, Brazil and Panama have all shown Aedes Aegypti population reductions of more than 90 percent.

The modified Aedes aegypti mosquito is now the first GM insect approved as safe for use in Brazil. Oxitec has opened a factory in Brazil is waiting for commercial clearance to begin full scale production.

Read full, original post: Biotech spin-out to be sold for $160 million

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