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In the year 2020, will no gene drive be launched to fight malaria-carrying mosquitoes in any part of the world?


Gene drives are phenomena in a species' population in which one version of a gene, or allele, is probabilistically favored over other alleles that are otherwise equally favored by fitness. A gene drive in a particular allele shows up as a bias for the corresponding phenotype in the offspring. Consider two parents with different alleles for the same gene; if there exists a gene drive for one allele, it is highly likely that all of the parents' offspring will carry the driven gene's trait.

With new advances in genetic engineering using CRISPR, it is now much easier to modify an organism's genes. This makes engineered gene drives tractable: a gene coding for the CRISPR system itself can be encoded near to the gene being "driven," so that if one copy of the driven allele and one "wild" allele are inherited, the CRISPR system modifies the wild gene so that the driven gene plus CRISPR system is inherited. This process can spread the driven gene exponentially throughout a population, at a rate far exceeding the spread of a gene that is merely favorable for survival.

Uses of this method include the potential to eliminate diseases like malaria or lyme disease that are spread by a fast-reproducing vector, by promoting disease-resistant traits. Valentino Gantz et. al. have genetically altered a primary malaria vector native to India, the Anopheles stephensi mosquito, to carry and pass on anti-malaria traits. Another study published in nature biotechnology offers a more drastic approach that would render female Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes, native to Africa, completely infertile, with the intent of wiping out the species in affected ecosystems. Similar studies have investigated engineering mice (a prime carrier) to be immune to Lyme disease.

With Malaria afflicting hundreds of millions of people per year, advances in gene drive research have instigated public conversations about the usefulness, feasibility, and ethics of gene drives being encouraged before testing them in wild ecosystems.

In the year 2020, will no gene drive be launched to fight malaria-carrying mosquitoes in any part of the world?

For negative resolution, there must be credible reports that the drive was initiated. For the purpose of this question, the wild population can be isolated (say on an island or even in an enclosure) to control spreading but should aim to replicate natural reproduction etc., and cannot be a laboratory setting.

In case of ambiguity we will adopt as our resolution the resolution chosen by Dylan Matthews and/or Kelsey Piper in their review of their 2020 predictions.

In case negative resolution is triggered, this question retroactively closes two days prior to the day resolution is triggered, but resolves on January 1st, 2021.

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