OXFORD, England and GERMANTOWN, Md., Dec. 17, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Intrexon Corporation (NYSE: XON), a leader in synthetic biology, today announced the UK's House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee published findings of their investigation into GM insects with strong recognition of their potential to improve lives worldwide by controlling harmful pests that spread disease and damage food crops. The work of Oxitec, an Intrexon subsidiary focused on developing insect control solutions in a safe and environmentally-friendly manner, is highlighted in the Genetically Modified Insects report which discusses a number of challenges that GM insects can help address.
According to the report, "The sheer disease burden means that all avenues should be explored, and the positive outcome from Oxitec's dengue fever field trials should be capitalized on. This potential must be explored; it would be a mistake not to pursue GM insect technologies for a range of potential applications."
Oxitec CEO Hadyn Parry said, "We are delighted that the House of Lords, following a highly rigorous process, has come out with such a strong statement of support. Our focus has always been on helping to stop mosquito borne diseases, but like us, the Committee also recognizes the considerable potential in agriculture. We urge the UK Government to act on the direction of this report and help us bring this approach to countries labouring under the threat of diseases such as Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika Virus."
The self-limiting insect control developed by Oxitec has been trialed in several countries against dengue fever-carrying mosquitoes, successfully reducing target insect populations by over 90% – an unprecedented level of control. This approach has now been approved by the National Biosafety Committee in Brazil (CTNBio) for use throughout the country, and the city of Piracicaba is leading the way with the world's first municipal partnership releasing Oxitec mosquitoes.
Samuel Broder, M.D., SVP and Head of Intrexon's Health Sector stated, "The Aedes aegypti mosquito poses a major threat to the public health and to the economic welfare of nations by transmitting a number of increasingly problematic diseases. Oxitec offers a new paradigm of vector control resulting in dramatic reductions in vector mosquito populations, without persistence nor harm to the environment, representing a major scientific advance that is drawing warranted attention."
As for agricultural pests and insect-borne crop diseases which can be found across the world, there were three particular pests which were highlighted repeatedly during the House of Lords inquiry: the diamondback moth, the Mediterranean fruit fly, and the spotted wing drosophila. All of these pests are in Oxitec's pipeline. Oxitec's diamondback moth solution, currently being trialed in the US, has been shown to rapidly suppress this difficult to control pest which costs farmers over $4 billion yearly in crop losses and control management. Oxitec's Mediterranean fruit fly has also been approved for outdoor trials in Brazil, and the Western Australia Department of Agriculture and Food recently announced they will conduct an indoor assessment of Oxitec's pesticide-free solution for this invasive pest to potentially protect the high quality and variety of fruits consumers have come to depend on and enjoy.
"It is reassuring that the House of Lords recognizes the opportunity with GM insects. In addition to the promise of Oxitec's technology in health, its applications in the agriculture sector are equally important as an estimated 20% to 40% of food production is lost every year to insect pests despite widespread pesticide use. This tool is essential to develop innovative solutions to control insect pests that damage crops in the face of increasing resistance to traditional control methods," said Corey Huck, SVP and Head of Intrexon's Food Sector.
The environmental profile of this mating-based approach is of particular benefit because Oxitec mosquitoes only control the target pest, leaving other species unaffected. In addition, the approach is self-limiting; the released GM insects and their offspring die, which means that not only can the pest population be precisely targeted and controlled but the released GM insects do not persist in the environment. Oxitec's insects also carry a fluorescent marker that aids monitoring through simple identification.
Chair of the Committee Lord Selborne said, "GM insect technologies have the potential … to save countless lives worldwide." He added, "Our report concludes that the UK Government has a moral duty to test the potential of this technology, for the long-term benefit of those countries where diseases like dengue and malaria are indiscriminate killers."
About Intrexon Corporation
Intrexon Corporation (NYSE: XON) is Powering the Bioindustrial Revolution with Better DNA™ to create biologically-based products that improve the quality of life and the health of the planet. The Company's integrated technology suite provides its partners across diverse markets with industrial-scale design and development of complex biological systems delivering unprecedented control, quality, function, and performance of living cells. We call our synthetic biology approach Better DNA®, and we invite you to discover more at www.dna.com.
Intrexon, Powering the Bioindustrial Revolution with Better DNA, and Better DNA are trademarks of Intrexon and/or its affiliates. Other names may be trademarks of their respective owners.
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