After gaining approval to release 750 million genetically modified (“GM”) mosquitoes in Florida during 2021/2022, British-based biotech company Oxitec is planning to expand the mosquito drops by releasing 2 billion of them in California and the Florida Keys. Following the EPA’s approval earlier this month, Oxitec will now submit permit applications to state regulators for their review.
The disturbing plan is bankrolled by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Additionally, in April 2021, Oxitec announced that The Wellcome Trust awarded Oxitec $6.8 million in funding to scale up its mosquito technology.
Oxitec, originally Oxford Insect Technologies, was founded in 2002 by Luke Alphey, David Kelly and Paul Coleman working with Oxford University’s Isis Innovation technology transfer company. The three founders are no longer associated with Oxitec with Alphey now at the Pirbright Institute and Kelly and Coleman going on to found H2O Impact Ventures.
Oxitec was purchased by US-based Precigen and, from early 2021, is now owned by Third Security, who also owns 40% of Precigen. It’s headquarters and R&D facilities are still in the UK, just a few miles from where they started at Oxford University. It was named a World Economic Forum technology pioneer in 2008 and has been recognised by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation ‘Grand Challenges for Global Health Initiative’.
Oxitec’s GM mosquitoes are entirely all males whose offspring die before they reach adulthood. Because they’re males, they do not bite. The purpose of the drops is to lower the incidence of mosquito-derived tropical diseases like yellow fever and dengue by drastically reducing the mosquito population.
The company has also included a fluorescent marker gene, which creates a protein that causes the larvae with the gene to glow when exposed to certain light.