News story

New million-pound production unit will tackle global diseases

£7.3 million investment will help battle against mosquito-borne disease and create 75 jobs for Oxitec, an Innovate UK-supported company.

Employee at factory in Brazil.

Eggs are produced in the UK and reared on in places such as Brazil, before being released into the environment.

A new state-of-the-art production unit will be able to produce one billion mosquito eggs a week in the global fight against deadly mosquito-borne diseases.

The facility will be built by Oxfordshire-based Oxitec. The company has developed an environmentally-friendly, genetically-engineered version of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. This wild mosquito is known to transmit the Zika virus, dengue fever, yellow fever and chikungunya.

More than 725,000 people die each year following a mosquito bite. Dengue fever alone infects 400 million people annually, causing an enormous health and economic burden in affected countries. Additionally, the past few years have seen the emergence of chikungunya and Zika in the Western Hemisphere.

When Oxitec’s safe, non-biting male Aedes aegypti mosquito is released into the environment, it mates with wild female mosquitos but their offspring do not survive - helping to suppress the local population.

Twenty-fold production increase to meet global demand

With the new unit, Oxitec will be able to increase its production of mosquito eggs by 20 times. This is to meet increasing global demand for Aedes aegypti control programmes.

From this facility eggs will be shipped to various affected locations across the world, where they will be reared on and then released into the environment.

It will be located at Milton Park, Oxfordshire, and is anticipated to create 75 new jobs.

Mark Carnegie-Brown, Chief Executive of Oxitec, said:

This investment is a reflection of the increasing interest and traction we are now seeing for Oxitec’s programmes, and represents a new phase in the company’s development.

The factory will better position us to help countries in need of superior solutions in the fight against this invasive mosquito that carries Zika, dengue and other harmful viruses.

Oxitec and Innovate UK

Oxitec’s work has been supported by Innovate UK through a number of projects over the last 5 years.

This includes a grant of up to £218,598 towards a collaborative research and development programme in India to control and effectively eradicate the Aedes aegypti mosquito from 2 rural hamlets where this mosquito is prevalent. This award was made through the Newton-Bhabha Fund.

Revolutionising how societies confront public health challenges

US bioindustrialists Intrexon Corporation acquired the University of Oxford spin-out in a $160 million deal in 2015.

The latest investment in Oxitec was announced during a roundtable event with US chief executives and UK Prime Minister Theresa May to discuss investment and growth in the UK. It was made during the United Nations General Assembly.

Intrexon Chief Executive, Randal J Kirk, said:

Intrexon is proud to announce, alongside Prime Minister Theresa May, this increased investment in Oxitec, UK.

Oxitec’s solution will revolutionise how societies confront public health challenges posed by invasive mosquitoes that transmit devastating diseases.

Published 20 September 2017