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Are genetically engineered mosquitoes the future in controlling pest-born diseases such as malaria? Find out in the September Science Exchange talk by Luke Alphey at Wallingford School on Tuesday 23rd September at 7.30 pm.

Mosquito-borne disease continues to be a major burden in many countries, with some progress against malaria but little for some other major diseases such as dengue. Modern genetics and synthetic biology can potentially provide new control methods, delivered by releasing engineered mosquitoes to mate with the target pest population. Such methods are potentially clean and environmentally-friendly with minimal off-target effects.

Products of genetic engineering have been well received in some contexts (insulin, vaccines) but have proved controversial in other areas (crops), though responses vary considerably in different countries – how will engineered mosquitoes be received? Would similar approaches for livestock or crop pests, or to defend ecologically-sensitive areas against invasive insect species, be more or less acceptable? Field trials of the first such methods have been successfully conducted with strong community support, but these have been on very small scales so far, at least relative to the scale of the problem.

Luke Alphey is a Group Leader in the Vector-Borne Viral Diseases Programme of The Pirbright Institute, and co-founder and non-executive director of Oxitec Ltd. Luke was recently named BBSRC Innovator of the Year for his work helping to prevent the spread of dengue fever through research on the genetic control of pest insects.

The talk will be held in Wallingford School Library, St George’s Road, Wallingford – doors open from 7.00pm. Light refreshments are available, and the event is free to attend. Science Exchange Wallingford is part of the nationwide Café Scientifique network.

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