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For the End of Mosquitos

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is increasing its support of gene drives to kill malaria-transmitting mosquitos, Technology Review's Antonio Regalado reports.

The foundation is providing the Imperial College London-based Target Malaria group an additional $35 million in funding, for a total of $75 million, he adds. According to Gates Foundation spokesperson Bryan Callahan, these funds will enable the Target Malaria team to lay the groundwork for gene drives.

As gene drives would be designed to spread through natural populations to affect their reproduction, the technology has raised environmental and other concerns. In a recent report, the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine said that gene drives need to be better studied before they are widely released. "The potential for gene drives to spread throughout a population, to persist in the environment, and to cause irreversible effects on organisms and ecosystems calls for a robust method to assess risks," the report said.

According to Regalado, the Gates Foundation has said the projects it funds will follow recommendations from the NAS on how to study gene drives safely. Callahan also tells him that the foundation views the technology as a "long shot."