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OUR MISSION IS TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE ERADICATION OF HUMAN MALARIA

We are genetically modifying mosquito populations to prevent them from transmitting the parasites that cause malaria. The aim is to collaborate with malaria-endemic countries to develop new tools to add to the existing methods of malaria control. If a country determines that the genetically modified mosquito is an appropriate malaria control tool for them, they will co-develop the modified mosquito and the implementation strategy required for a release.

The vast majority of malaria cases and deaths occur in Africa. For this reason, the African Anopheles malaria mosquitoes are the main focus of research by UCMI scientists, who have spent decades studying these mosquitoes.

UCMI IS A NOT-FOR-PROFIT RESEARCH COLLABORATIVE

RELATIONSHIP-BASED
APPROACH

Our work emphasizes the importance of establishing open dialogue, collaboration, and relationships of trust with stakeholders and community members where research is being conducted. It places stakeholders and community members at the center of the decision-making processes that drive every phase of the research.

Malaria is one of the oldest and deadliest diseases in the world and it is completely preventable. We are committed to working in collaboration with our partner research institutions, funders, collaborators in Africa and Europe, regulatory experts, and other malaria control organizations in an effort to eradicate this devastating disease.

OUR TEAMS

UCMI takes a team-based approach to every aspect of its research. The program recognizes the importance of an interdisciplinary approach that encompasses diverse areas of expertise and experience. Within the program we have multiple components comprising groups of people who work collaboratively and are defined by their function. All components complement each other, are driven by the same commitment and goal, and come together to form the UCMI program.

Learn about the functions of each component of our UCMI team below.

  • Laboratory Science
  • Modeling
  • Field Science
  • Community Engagement

This component includes the design, construction, and preliminary evaluations of the modified mosquitoes in laboratory cages. The research involves the design, construction, and evaluation of beneficial genes that block parasite development in the mosquito, and the construction of the gene drive systems that promote the introduction and spread of these genes into natural populations. It also includes the laboratory evaluation of how well the effector genes and the gene drive are performing in cage populations.

Dr. Anthony A. James serves as the project director for UCMI. He is a Donald Bren and Distinguished professor of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics (School of Medicine) and Molecular Biology & Biochemistry (School of Biological Sciences) at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and a member of the National Academy of Sciences (USA). An alumnus of UCI, he did postdoctoral work at Harvard Medical School and Brandeis University. He is recognized widely for his contributions to molecular biological investigations of mosquitoes and the development of genetic approaches to controlling vector-borne diseases. His research group at UCI has engineered genes that interfere with the malaria parasite development in mosquitoes.

Dr. Ethan Bier is an Allen Distinguished professor in the section of Cell and Developmental Biology at University of California, San Diego (UCSD). He received his Ph.D. from Harvard Medical School where he studied regulation of immune genes and did his postdoctoral studies at UCSD on the development of the nervous system. Dr. Bier was a pioneer in developing the CRISPR-Cas9 based Gene Drive system, initially in Drosophila, and subsequently in mosquitoes, in partnership with Dr. James.

Dr. George Dimopoulos is a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology. He serves as deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute and director of its Parasitology Core facility. Dr. Dimopoulos has developed pathogen resistant mosquitoes based on genetic engineering of the mosquito’s immune system, and CRISPR/CAS9-based disruption of pathogen host factor.

This component provides predictions about how the modified mosquitoes will behave when they are introduced into a natural mosquito population and in environments inside and outside of the laboratory. Modeling helps to provide answers to questions such as: How many modified mosquitoes would need to be released at a specific time? How will modified mosquitoes spread geographically? What is the timeframe for spread of the modified mosquitoes? More information about our modeling work can be found HERE.

Dr. John Marshall is an Assistant Professor in the School of Public Health at University of California, Berkeley. He received his PhD in biomathematics from UCLA writing his dissertation on the use of GM mosquitoes to control malaria. He worked on the social and regulatory issues of this project at the Malaria Research and Training Center in Mali, molecular biology at Caltech, and infectious disease modeling at Imperial College London, prior to joining UC Berkeley. His current research focuses on the use of mathematical models to support efforts to control and eliminate mosquito-borne diseases.

This component will help determine criteria used to evaluate possible sites for conducting a field trial with modified mosquitoes. Field science research is conducted on-site at potential field sites in order to collect data about: the natural mosquito populations that live there, other environmental and social factors that determine if a release of modified mosquitoes is possible, and where and when the best time would be to do a modified mosquito release. Field science also includes post-release monitoring and surveillance.

FIELD SITE

The field site is essential to the successful development and application of all other UCMI components. Leaders and collaborators at the field site directly participate in the development of the project work plans, timelines and decisions that determine how the science will be applied, regulated, and monitored, and how communities, stakeholders and public groups will be engaged. Important Collaborators at our field site include the Ministry of Health, National Malaria Control Program, National University, and the WHO.

The Democratic Republic of São Tomé And Príncipe

This component includes the design, construction, and preliminary evaluations of the modified mosquitoes in laboratory cages. The research involves the design, construction, and evaluation of beneficial genes that block parasite development in the mosquito, and the construction of the gene drive systems that promote the introduction and spread of these genes into natural populations. It also includes the laboratory evaluation of how well the effector genes and the gene drive are performing in cage populations.

Dr. Anthony A. James serves as the project director for UCMI. He is a Donald Bren and Distinguished professor of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics (School of Medicine) and Molecular Biology & Biochemistry (School of Biological Sciences) at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and a member of the National Academy of Sciences (USA). An alumnus of UCI, he did postdoctoral work at Harvard Medical School and Brandeis University. He is recognized widely for his contributions to molecular biological investigations of mosquitoes and the development of genetic approaches to controlling vector-borne diseases. His research group at UCI has engineered genes that interfere with the malaria parasite development in mosquitoes.

Dr. Ethan Bier is an Allen Distinguished professor in the section of Cell and Developmental Biology at University of California, San Diego (UCSD). He received his Ph.D. from Harvard Medical School where he studied regulation of immune genes and did his postdoctoral studies at UCSD on the development of the nervous system. Dr. Bier was a pioneer in developing the CRISPR-Cas9 based Gene Drive system, initially in Drosophila, and subsequently in mosquitoes, in partnership with Dr. James.

Dr. George Dimopoulos is a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology. He serves as deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute and director of its Parasitology Core facility. Dr. Dimopoulos has developed pathogen resistant mosquitoes based on genetic engineering of the mosquito’s immune system, and CRISPR/CAS9-based disruption of pathogen host factor.

This component provides predictions about how the modified mosquitoes will behave when they are introduced into a natural mosquito population and in environments inside and outside of the laboratory. Modeling helps to provide answers to questions such as: How many modified mosquitoes would need to be released at a specific time? How will modified mosquitoes spread geographically? What is the timeframe for spread of the modified mosquitoes? More information about our modeling work can be found HERE.

Dr. John Marshall is an Assistant Professor in the School of Public Health at University of California, Berkeley. He received his PhD in biomathematics from UCLA writing his dissertation on the use of GM mosquitoes to control malaria. He worked on the social and regulatory issues of this project at the Malaria Research and Training Center in Mali, molecular biology at Caltech, and infectious disease modeling at Imperial College London, prior to joining UC Berkeley. His current research focuses on the use of mathematical models to support efforts to control and eliminate mosquito-borne diseases.

This component will help determine criteria used to evaluate possible sites for conducting a field trial with modified mosquitoes. Field science research is conducted on-site at potential field sites in order to collect data about: the natural mosquito populations that live there, other environmental and social factors that determine if a release of modified mosquitoes is possible, and where and when the best time would be to do a modified mosquito release. Field science also includes post-release monitoring and surveillance.

FIELD SITE

The field site is essential to the successful development and application of all other UCMI components. Leaders and collaborators at the field site directly participate in the development of the project work plans, timelines and decisions that determine how the science will be applied, regulated, and monitored, and how communities, stakeholders and public groups will be engaged. Important Collaborators at our field site include the Ministry of Health, National Malaria Control Program, National University, and the WHO.

The Democratic Republic of São Tomé And Príncipe
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Relationship-based model (RBM) for community and regulatory engagement. Venn diagram showing interactions among key components applying a Relationship-Based Model (RBM). Stakeholders and Community members are at the center and drive decision-making processes. RES/REG: Dialogue among researchers and regulators is critical in the assessment of risk, application of the technology, and monitoring and surveillance. REG/SE & CE: Dialogue among regulators, stakeholders and community members informs and guides the risk-assessment and regulatory development processes, monitoring and surveillance. RES/SE & CE: Dialogue among researchers, stakeholders and community will direct the scientific research and timelines, and will determine if, when, where, and how the technology is applied.