UCIMI Meeting 01/24/2018

Dr. Rebeca Carballar Addresses the UCIMI Teams

Vector-borne Disease Consortium

UC San Diego has joined with the University of California, Irvine (UCI) to create the Vector-borne Disease Consortium to promote discovery and development of novel science with the ultimate goal of eradicating mosquito-transmitted diseases in India and Africa. Consortium research is highly collaborative and allows for the sharing of materials, know-how, and brings together experts from molecular biology, entomology, public health, community engagement and regulatory control. Future field trials will adhere to guidelines developed by the World Health Organization, National Academies of Sciences and other regulatory agencies in which a phased approach is used to test both safety and efficacy of mosquito strains as the Consortium’s work progresses.

Combating Vector-borne Disease

Pioneering experiments conducted at UC Irvine and UC San Diego have demonstrated that the malaria vector mosquito Anopheles stephensi can be genetically engineered using Active Genetics to express genes targeted against the malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum, and that this new trait is inherited by nearly all of the mosquitoes’ progeny. Institute researchers and collaborators are expanding on this work with a goal of developing mosquito strains that may ultimately be used to substantially reduce malaria transmission, using a vector replacement rather than a vector-elimination strategy. In addition to combating malaria, a disease that causes an estimated 450,000 worldwide deaths per year, this approach may also be leveraged against other mosquito-borne-disease agents, including Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika virus.

The vector-borne disease collaboration programs brings together experts from molecular biology, entomology, public health, community engagement and regulation.


Active Genetics,

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Active Genetics,Active Genetics, the non-Mendelian transmission of heritable traits by means of self-propagating genetic elements, was conceived and developed at UC San Diego in pioneering work on the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster (Gantz and Bier, 2015). Its most powerful application to date has been its adaptation in collaboration with the James laboratory (UC Irvine) as a gene drive system to create mosquitoes that can be used to control malaria transmission (Gantz et al., 2015). Active Genetics can also be used to bypass prohibitive constraints imposed by standard genetic methods to permit aggregation of multiple naturally occurring genetic variations in crop strains. This allows crop strains to  grow in new suboptimal environments, to combine multiple replacements of the mouse genome with human equivalents to create better models for studying and treating disease and may have important applications in cell-therapies targeting cancer and in combating antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Active Genetics is an exciting new technology that has immense potential in transforming health and agriculture.


The societal focus of TIGS is dedicated and deeply committed to the use of Active Genetics for beneficial purposes in a socially conscious, safe and ethical manner. This means that we will debate and examine the economic and social impacts of the technologies we develop, implement the best practices for its safe use and participate actively with international regulatory agencies in guidance on how and when to deploy this technology for the highest impact with minimal environmental risks. To achieve these goals, we encourage our faculty and students to engage in evidence-based research to create effective public policies, foster the ethical uses of technology, assess economic impacts and participate in stakeholder education and engagement. Our mission is also to educate and train people in these areas, which will continue to be of importance in an ever changing world

Broader Applications

Several potentially impactful applications of Active Genetics are also being explored by a network of highly interactive faculty at University of California who seek to develop this platform for use in other invertebrate species, vertebrates and plants. Applications include cell engineering, control of crop pests, development of new agricultural crop strains, creation of new humanized mouse models for studying and treating diseases such as cancer and potentially restoring microbial sensitivity to antibiotics.