Selection of sites for field trials of genetically engineered mosquitoes with gene drive

Gregory C. Lanzaro, Melina Campos, Marc Crepeau, Anthony Cornel, Abram Estrada, Hans Gripkey, Ziad Haddad, Ana Kormos, Steven Palomares

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Novel malaria control strategies using genetically engineered mosquitoes (GEMs) are on the horizon. Population modification is one approach wherein mosquitoes are engineered with genes rendering them refractory to the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, coupled with a low-threshold, Cas9-based gene drive. When released into a wild vector population, GEMs preferentially transmit these parasite-blocking genes to their offspring, ultimately modifying a vector population into a nonvector one. Deploying this technology awaits ecologically contained field trial evaluations. Here, we consider a process for site selection, the first critical step in designing a trial. Our goal is to identify a site that maximizes prospects for success, minimizes risk, and serves as a fair, valid, and convincing test of efficacy and impacts of a GEM product intended for large-scale deployment in Africa. We base site selection on geographic, geological, and biological, rather than social or legal, criteria. We recognize the latter as critically important but not as a first step in selecting a site. We propose physical islands as being the best candidates for a GEM field trial and present an evaluation of 22 African islands. We consider geographic and genetic isolation, biological complexity, island size, and topography and identify two island groups that satisfy key criteria for ideal GEM field trial sites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2147-2161
Number of pages15
JournalEvolutionary Applications
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Anopheles gambiae
  • genetic control
  • islands
  • malaria
  • population modification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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