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Major Grant Awarded to support Keele Professor's work on Malaria Control
A major grant of £13.6 million ($17,500,000) from the Open Philanthropy Project has been awarded to the Target Malaria consortium, which will support the work of Frederic Tripet, Professor in Medical and Molecular Entomology at Keele University. Professor Tripet’s translational research focuses on male mosquito mating behaviour and its application to novel vector control technologies. Professor Tripet, who is also Director of the Centre for Applied Entomology and Parasitology at Keele, will lead the four-year programme, in collaboration with Professor Austin Burt, Imperial College London, and Dr Fred Aboagye-Antwi at the University of Ghana in Accra.
The $17,500,000 grant to the Target Malaria consortium will help the project develop and prepare for the potential deployment of gene-drive technologies in mosquitoes to help eliminate malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa, if feasible, ethical, safe, approved by the regulatory authorities, and supported by the affected communities. The grant will support a number of critical research programmes complementary to existing Target Malaria activities.
Professor Tripet explained:
“Research in my laboratory focuses on integrative biology of arthropods that transmit major human diseases. An important focus of our research, since the late 1990s, has been Mosquito Mating Behaviour, which is crucial to several aspects of vector control and disease transmission.
This grant will enable us to identify mechanisms of mate recognition and mate choice in mosquitoes, which is essential for the production of competitive males for malaria control strategies relying on mosquito releases. Hopefully this will lead to new vector control approaches.”
About $2,300,000 has been allocated to the development of novel methods for rearing, transporting, and releasing modified mosquitoes that aim to ensure that the gene-drive constructs can be introduced into natural populations in an efficient manner.
Malaria is a leading cause of child mortality in the developing world, and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) estimates that the current mortality rate of malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa is roughly 1,700 people per day.1 It has been proposed that gene drives, a new scientific tool, could substantially contribute towards eliminating mosquito-borne diseases like malaria and dengue fever. Gene drives are tools for genetically altering an organism in a way that increases the proportion of offspring that inherit the altered trait.