A startup will use gene-editing technology to control harmful insect populations that threaten biodiversity, health, and food security
Spotted: Although insects are crucial to the global ecosystem, some threaten humanity by ruining crops, spreading disease, and invading local ecosystems. To fight back, people have leaned on toxic pesticides, but at the detriment of other wildlife and human health. Thankfully, Italian startup Biocentis has found another solution that eludes these harmful side effects using CRISPR-based gene editing.
The company’s proposed alternative builds on research from Imperial College London and uses the sterile insect technique (SIT) – where a target species of insects is sterilised to decrease the amount of successful mating in the wild. Biocentis plans on improving this approach by using the advanced gene-editing technology CRISPR to progressively reduce egg production and locally control insect species.
Professor Andrea Crisanti in Imperial’s Department of Life Sciences, a co-founder of Biocentis, explains that “our solutions will alleviate the burden imposed by vector-borne diseases, improve agriculture productivity, and reduce the damage from the use of traditional pesticides, addressing the agenda of a future green economy – a sustainable model that combines reduced environmental impact with significant improvements in the health and livelihoods of communities around the world.”
Biocentis is currently active in Italy, the UK, and the USA and has recently received seed funding from Neurone to further round and develop the company and its employees.
Written By: Georgia King