OXFORD, UK, 21st March 2016 – The World Health Organization (WHO) has posted the conclusions and recommendations of the Vector Control Advisory Group (VCAG) meeting from March 14-15, 2016, regarding vector control tools for use in response to the recent Zika virus outbreak. After their review of several new tools with the potential to reduce vector populations, the VCAG issued a positive recommendation in support of Oxitec’s self-limiting mosquito (OX513A).
Oxitec’s Chief Executive Officer Hadyn Parry said, “We applaud the efforts and leadership shown by the WHO. Their recommendation is a strong vote of confidence in the Oxitec mosquito as a potential tool in the fight against Zika, and is a positive step forward in the fight against the spread of mosquitoes that transmit disease. Oxitec continues to engage with communities that are in need of effective, scalable solutions to combat the dangerous Aedes aegypti mosquito, the primary vector for a number of harmful arboviruses including Zika, dengue and chikungunya.”
In conjunction with the recommended planned pilot deployment of OX513A under operational conditions, the VCAG noted the way forward for control of Aedes mosquitoes has to change from a reactive approach to sustained, proactive control intervention. In their commentary, VCAG also remarked on the need to improve “the quality and extent of implementation of vector control interventions to ensure optimal impact – both within the context of the immediate response to Zika virus disease and, more broadly, against all Aedes-borne diseases.”
Oxitec has been focused on the control of Aedes aegypti for over a decade and pioneered a biological method to suppress wild populations of this dangerous mosquito species through targeted release of male mosquitoes, which do not bite or transmit disease. These Oxitec OX513A males search for and mate with wild Aedes aegypti females. The progeny of these matings inherit a self-limiting gene and die before becoming functional adults. OX513A mosquitoes have been evaluated in efficacy trials from 2009 across Brazil, Panama, and the Cayman Islands, and in each the local Aedes aegypti populations were successfully reduced by more than 90% – an unparalleled level of control.
Importantly, unlike some other approaches, Oxitec’s solution leaves no environmental footprint. The released mosquitoes and their offspring die so they do not persist in the ecosystem. Additionally OX513A mosquitoes have a heritable, fluorescent marker that identifies their offspring. This affords the programme an unprecedented level of traceability and impact measurement leading to accurate monitoring and evaluation of efficacy during the course of a control programme.
Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a preliminary Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on Oxitec’s solution for an investigational trial in the Florida Keys. The finding concluded a field trial of the Company’s OX513A mosquitoes in Key Haven, Florida, would not result in a significant impact on the environment.
Oxitec is a pioneer in using genetic engineering to control insect pests that spread disease and damage crops, and was founded in 2002 as a spinout from Oxford University (UK). Oxitec is a subsidiary of Intrexon Corporation (NYSE: XON), which engineers biology to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems.
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