Open Philanthropy recommended a grant of $10,248,967 over three years to UC Davis to support subsequent stages of a feasibility analysis of a potential test of gene drives for malaria control on the adjoining West African 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 size of the mosquito population on the islands.
As part of the preliminary feasibility analysis, which we supported in February 2020, Dr. Lanzaro’s team developed working relationships with local communities, established an ethics advisory board, developed a communication plan, and conducted appropriate safety tests.
The next phase of the feasibility analysis will include stakeholder engagement and educational and public outreach activities to enable residents of the islands to consider the purpose of the potential gene drive, capacity-building activities to empower the local government and scientific and regulatory agencies to develop and implement a regulatory framework, and ecological studies to assess the potential ecological impacts of a malaria gene drive. At the conclusion of this stage, Dr. Lanzaro’s team will consider submitting a proposal to the government of São Tomé and Príncipe seeking approval for a field trial. 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.