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Into the Zika Fray

When Randal Kirk's Intrexon bought Oxitec last summer, the Zika virus wasn't yet on many people's minds, but now that it is, he says the company's transgenic mosquitoes may be the best way to handle the outbreak, the New York Times reports.

"I think that we have the only safe, effective, field-proven, and ready-to-deploy solution," Kirk tells the Times.

According to the Times, Kirk has acquired a number of diverse biotech companies that work on everything from cancer therapeutics to gas substitutes to microbe-made glow-in-the-dark toys. And if he's able to sell these modified mosquitoes, "Kirk will fortify his near cult-like status among some investors and colleagues who marvel at his shrewd (and somewhat lucky) investments," the Times says.

But to get the Oxitec mosquito to the field, Kirk and his company have to convince regulators in the US, foreign governments, and nonprofits that the mosquitos are safe and that they'll be effective, the Times add.

In addition, critics point out that Intrexon announces new acquisitions and collaborations, but few products, as the paper notes. Further, nothing has been published on Intrexon's UltraVector, as the company wants to protect its trade secrets, making it hard for others to gauge the strength of the company's core technology.

"There's a mixture here of spectacle and speculation," Jim Thomas from the ETC Group tells the Times.