What Is Bill Gates Doing?
On June 22, it was revealed that Gates is contributing $4 million to an initiative that will result in mosquitoes killing each other during sex. The funds will be directed from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation immediately.
This is part of Gates' larger plan, in which he pledged to "eradicate malaria within a generation."
Over 1 million people die from malaria every year. Most of it occurs in Sub-Saharan Africa and most of the victims are children. Up to 600 million people can suffer from malaria each year. The disease only spread through Anopheles mosquitoes.
How Does Bill Gates' Plan To Fight Malaria Work?
Under the plan, genetically modified male mosquitoes will be released into the wild with a self-limiting gene. They will have sex with female mosquitoes, who are the only ones that bite and transmit malaria. Since only the males will be genetically modified, this will be safe for humans.
During sex, the female mosquitoes will receive the self-limiting gene. This results in having their offspring die before reaching adulthood, which is when they start biting humans. That means that mosquitoes who are capable of spreading malaria will die.
What Is Oxitec?
Oxitec is the United Kingdom company that will develop the genetically modified mosquitoes, which are also called "Friendly Mosquitoes" by some. These mosquitoes will be developed by 2020. Oxitec chief executive Grey Frandsen thanks the Gates Foundation for the donation that will allow his company to "enter the fight against malaria."
This isn't the first time Gates has supported Oxitec. In 2010, he gave $4.9 million to it for previous killer mosquito initiatives. The first genetically modified mosquitoes were developed to limit the spread of Zika in South America.
"With further progress stalled at present, continued innovation of new and transformational interventions is critical to realizing the goal of a world free of malaria," said Philip Welkhoff, the malaria program director for Gates Foundation. "Oxitec's work will complement the foundation's investments in self-sustaining genetically-modified mosquitoes for potential use in Africa."
Environmental charity Friends of the Earth previously called out Oxitec for the "ethical risks" with mosquitoes. The organization is not happy with the idea of mosquitoes prematurely killing offspring.