Open Philanthropy recommended a grant of $1,500,000 over 18 months to UC Davis to support a preliminary feasibility analysis of a potential test of gene drives for malaria control on the adjoining islands of São Tomé and Príncipe. The work, led by Dr. Greg Lanzaro and colleagues, will focus on a potential gene drive application that would reduce or inhibit the ability of mosquitoes to transmit the malarial parasite, without impacting the mosquito population on the islands.
As part of the feasibility analysis, Dr. Lanzaro’s team will establish working relationships with local communities with the goal of providing information and answering questions about potential future research and defining a pathway to community approval of a potential future release. Other preliminary work potentially supported by these funds includes the establishment of an ethics advisory board, the development of a communication plan, and any appropriate safety tests. At the conclusion of this stage, we will consider whether to provide additional funding for ecological studies that would be conducted prior to any release. Deployment would only take place if determined to be feasible, ethical, safe, approved by the regulatory authorities, and supported by the affected communities. Related scientific research is being supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.