In Italy, Target Malaria’s partner is Polo d’Innovazione di Genomica, Genetica e Biologia (Polo GGB).

Context of our work

Polo GGB is a highly specialised company in the field of Life Sciences, offering genomics, genetics and bioinformatic services to the academic, public, and private sectors.

Polo GGB became a collaborating partner of Target Malaria in 2015. The Genetics and Ecology Research Centre in Terni houses a state-of-the art-insectary, with Arthropod Containment Level 2 facilities for rearing and testing genetically modified mosquitoes.

The Polo GGB team collaborates with the Crisanti lab at Imperial College London to develop genetic technologies, such as gene drives. These technologies aim to create mosquito strains that could be used to control malaria transmission. Once genetically modified mosquito strains displaying suitable characteristics for mosquito control are generated, they undergo further tests in small and large indoor cages, as well as in more complex ecological settings. The Genetics and Ecology laboratory stands out for its large cages that can accommodate populations of mosquitoes in a semi-natural environment. By simulating tropical environments under contained and controlled conditions, researchers work towards determining the efficacy of the technology in reducing mosquito populations over time in an environment of increasing complexity that is closer to field applications.

During experiments, data is collected on the behavioural and fitness characteristics of the mosquito population, as well as the interaction between wild type (non-modified) mosquitoes and genetically modified ones. For example, the team investigates whether wild type female mosquitoes mate with genetically modified males. The information gathered from these experiments is crucial to refine the technology’s efficacy and safety.

In addition, the PoloGGB Genomics and Bioinformatics laboratory in Siena supports research activities by providing sequencing and bioinformatic services, which support the molecular characterisation of our genetically modified mosquitoes.