Intrexon’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Randal J. Kirk commented, “Oxitec’s technology demonstrates that engineered biology can solve some of mankind’s most difficult problems – many that have eluded solutions for a very long time – while exercising tremendous respect for the environment. In particular, to be able to induce a population decline in a major disease vector and know your intervention does not propagate in the environment is an historic achievement. Oxitec and Intrexon share a vision for, and an overriding commitment to, a safer, healthier, and more sustainable planet, and because our technology platforms are so complementary, we believe this combination will allow us to address a wider range of threats to global health and food security in new, responsible and exciting ways. I am proud to welcome Oxitec and its accomplished people to the Intrexon team.”
“We are excited to be joining forces with Intrexon and see this partnership as key to developing sustainable solutions to some of the world’s most intractable health and agriculture problems and making them available on a global basis,” stated Hadyn Parry, Chief Executive Officer of Oxitec. “We look forward to making a difference in people’s lives that much sooner as part of Intrexon.”
Utilizing advanced genetics and molecular biology, Oxitec has developed a new and innovative solution to controlling insect populations through the production of ‘sterile’, self-limiting insects whose offspring do not survive. Unlike conventional approaches to insect control using insecticides that can affect the broader ecosystem, Oxitec programs are exquisitely directed at a single species. Intrexon intends to integrate its synthetic biology platform to advance Oxitec’s existing initiatives to protect communities from diseases like dengue fever as well as against agricultural pests that impact food supply worldwide.
According to the World Health Organization, dengue is the world’s fastest growing mosquito-borne disease spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. A recent estimate indicates a potential 390 million dengue infections per year, of which 96 million manifest clinically. Dengue continues to grow in both prevalence and severity as current methods, relying mostly on insecticides, have not been adequate to control the spread of the mosquitoes. Open field trials with Oxitec’s mosquitoes have taken place in Brazil,Panama, Grand Cayman and Malaysia, with over 90% reduction of the Aedes aegypti pest population reported in each efficacy trial. Brazil’s National Technical Commission for Biosecurity (CTNBio) approved the safety of Oxitec’s mosquitoes in 2014, an important step towards full commercialization of this groundbreaking, and potentially life-saving, technology.
In addition to health programs, Intrexon will work on furthering Oxitec’s technology applications in agriculture as an estimated 20% to 40% of food production is lost every year to insect pests despite widespread pesticide use. Oxitec’s approach is ideal for use as part of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs, which many growers around the world are adopting to produce food in a more sustainable manner. Due to its species-specificity and low environmental impact, Oxitec solutions are ideal for use in IPM by making insect control more cost effective, safer, and applicable to a wider range of crops and pests.