Nature features Island Conservation’s GBIRd Program Manager, Royden Saah, and the impact gene drive could have for preventing extinctions.
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Researchers around the world are studying the possibility of using gene drives for preventing the spread of diseases and riding islands of invasive species. The Genetic Biocontrol of Invasive Rodents (GBIRd) program is a partnership between universities, governments, and non-governmental organizations including Island Conservation focused on exploring this innovative tool for preventing extinctions.
The removal of invasive species is one of the most effective conservation actions available today, but current technology is not enough to restore all the world’s islands.
They are feasible on only about 15% of islands,” says Royden Saah, GBIRd’s program manager. “We are trying to look at technologies that would take care of the other 85%.”
The development of new tools such as gene drives is vital to continuing to restore island ecosystems and preventing the extinction of threatened species. Although research and the development of gene drives have become common in mosquitoes, the release of a gene drive mice is years away.
The GBIRd program is working to understand not only the science behind the use of gene drives in mice but also to understand the social acceptability of this work. The release of a gene drive mouse is far off, but GBIRd is already working to with ethicists, scientists, and risk assessors to fully understand both the risks and the possibilities of gene drive.
We want to make sure we get this right,” says Saah. “No matter how fast the technologies move, we can advance the social sciences and the ethics now.”
Innovation and new solutions including the use of gene drives are the next frontier of conservation and will enable us to continue preventing extinctions.