Webinar: Gene Drive Research in Different Organisms

October 15, 2015

This webinar focused on gene drive research in different organisms, including mosquitoes and rodents. The webinar was an information-gathering meeting for the committee in which the speakers were invited to provide input to the committee.

Speakers:

The Landscape of Gene Drive Research in Different Organisms – Fred Gould, Professor of Entomology at North Carolina State University bio

Fred Gould is Willian Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor of Entomology and co-director of the Genetic Engineering and Society program at North Carolina State University. He also is the director of an NSF-IGERT graduate training program “Genetic Engineering and Society: The case of transgenic pests”. Dr. Gould’s research focuses on the ecology and genetics of insect pests in order to better understand natural and human-induced evolution. In addition his work explores the potential for genetically engineering insects to suppress disease and crop loss, as well as to protect endangered species. He assisted in the research and regulations for deploying insecticidal transgenic crops in ways that suppress the evolution of pest resistance. Dr. Gould was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2011 and serves on the National Academies Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Gene Drives in Mosquitoes for Disease Vector Control – Zachary Adelman, Associate Professor of Entomology at Virginia Tech bio

Zachary Adelman is an Associate Professor in the Department of Entomology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Dr. Adelman’s research program focuses on viruses and mosquitoes. He seeks to understand, at the molecular and genetic level, how these viruses infect, replicate, and are transmitted by mosquitoes to humans. He also seeks to understand the mosquito immune response to these viruses, as unlike people, mosquitoes do not become ill when infected with these deadly viruses. Only by understanding genetic changes in the mosquito, genetic changes in the virus, as well as the effects of different environmental situations can one truly hope to prevent mosquito-borne viral outbreaks. The long-term application of Adelman’s research is to use this information to design and implement new methods of controlling or preventing mosquito-borne viral disease outbreaks. This includes using genetics to block the mosquito’s ability to transmit viruses, and the development of new diagnostic tools to identify mosquitoes that are more likely to participate in an outbreak. Work in Dr. Adelman’s lab centers around two potential gene drive mechanisms: homing endonucleases and transposable elements.  He also studies mosquito-pathogen interactions using a transgenic “sensor” strain of A. aegypti which displays conditional green fluorescence in the eyes under conditions where RNA interference has been compromised.

Gene Drives in Rodents for Invasive Species Control –  John Godwin, Associate Professor of Biology at North Carolina State University bio

Dr. John Godwin is an Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at North Carolina State University. Dr. Godwin’s research centers on the study of animal behavior and sex determination with the goal of linking genes to behavioral and sexual phenotypes important for various adaptive challenges including mating successfully and coping with stressors. Research projects in his laboratory focus on fishes, lizards, and mammals, including a study on the neuroendocrinology and functional genomics of sex- and role-change in a coral reef fish; neural and functional genomic bases of anxiety-related behavior and stress responsiveness using domestic and wild-derived zebrafish; and a NSF-funded IGERT program focused on the possibility of genetic approaches to controlling invasive rodents on islands.

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