What is the GeneConvene Virtual Institute?

The GeneConvene Virtual Institute aggregates, curates and shares knowledge to advance understanding of  genetic biocontrol technologies, such as gene drive, as well as selfish genetic elements found throughout nature.

The Virtual Institute is an initiative of the GeneConvene Global Collaborative, a program within the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health that advances best practices for genetic biocontrol technologies such as those using gene drive.

What is genetic biocontrol and gene drive?

Genetic biocontrol refers to management strategies for populations of animals, insects and plants that are either invasive or otherwise deemed to be harmful or pests relying on genes to modify  characteristics of individuals within a target population of organisms so they are no long invasive and or harmful.  A well- established example of a genetic biocontrol technology is the Sterile Insect Technique, a technology developed in and used since the 1950s to control pest insect populations through the systematic release of large numbers of sterile insects of the same species in order to disrupt reproduction and population growth. Newer technologies, including gene drive technologies, use transgenic and genome modification technologies to effect changes in specific animal, plant or insect population.


Gene drive refers to genetic processes that lead to the preferential transmission of genes, transgenes or chromosomes to the next generation.  Gene drive technologies, if determined to be sufficiently safe and effective, might be used to introduce and maintain genes in specific populations of target organisms for the purposes of controlling the growth and/or the characteristics of the individuals comprising the population. Technological advances in genetics now make it possible to readily assemble transgenes in the laboratory that show gene drive when introduced into the genomes of organisms. Learn more about Gene Drive Basics

Why a virtual institute?

Gene drive and other genetic biocontrol technologies are emerging technologies with implications for public health, conservation and agriculture.  Conversations and discussions about these technologies will benefit from well-informed stakeholders and other interested parties.

Decisions by stakeholders regarding the research, development and possible use of gene drive and other biocontrol technologies will benefit from stakeholders having sources of knowledge of the scientific, social, ethical, safety and economic dimensions of these technologies.

Knowledge of gene drive and other genetic biocontrol technologies is growing rapidly but is fragmented and dispersed throughout the internet.  The aim of the GeneConvene Virtual Institute is to bring knowledge of gene drive and other genetic biocontrol technologies together in one virtual location to make it readily accessible to those with interests in these technologies.

Guiding Principles

The GeneConvene Virtual Institute strives to be an inclusive, balanced, fair and transparent source of knowledge about gene drive and other genetic biocontrol technologies, and to serve researchers, regulators, funders, supporters, policy makers, journalists, decision makers and the public.

Phased Development
Initially, the GeneConvene Virtual Institute‘s knowledgebase will be built out, focusing on engineered gene drives and selfish genetic elements found in nature (excluding transposons).  The knowledgebase will consist of  peer-reviewed scholarly literature, policy-, regulatory- and risk-related literature as well as stories and accounts of gene drive in non-scholarly sources including digital sources.  The community of content advisers will be enlarged to increase the GeneConvene Virtual Institute‘s awareness of new relevant content for the Virtual Institute.

Eventually, the GeneConvene Virtual Institute‘s knowledgebase will be enlarged to include all genetic biocontrol technologies and approaches including the sterile insect technique, transgenic autocidal technologies and Wolbachia-based approaches.  The GeneConvene Virtual Institute will create at least one Webinar series covering technical and non-technical topics related to genetic biocontrol.  The GeneConvene Virtual Institute will create a e-learning portal with educational e-learning resources enabling understanding of genetic biocontrol technologies.

Content Inclusion/Exclusion Guidelines

This section describes how gene drive-related content is identified

Scholarly Literature:  Scholarship about and related to gene drive technologies and selfish genetic elements (excluding transposons) in peer-reviewed journals and in the preprint services arXiv and bioRxiv are identified using databases that are searched at least weekly using the search terms “gene drive,” “selfish genetic elements,” “transmission ratio distortion,” “meiotic drive,” “segregation distortion,” “underdominance,” “B chromosomes,” “homing endonucleases,” “toxin-antidote,” “driving X,” “driving Y” with the Boolean operator “or.”  Two examples of scholarship databases:

  1. Web of Science (https://clarivate.com/products/web-of-science/): An online subscription-based scientific citation indexing service originally produced by the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI).
  2. WorldWideScience (https://worldwidescience.org/about.html ): A global science gateway hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Scientific and Technical Information and comprised of over 100 databases and portals (includes PubMed) from over 70 countries.

Regulations and Risk Assessment and Policy: Government publications and official statements related directly and indirectly to gene drive technologies will be tracked and aggregated, and news about government notifications and publications concerning policies and regulations proximally and distally related to gene drive.  Content Board members with interests and expertise in this area will be the major means by which the GeneConvene Virtual Institute identifies this content-type in addition to Web searches (see Media)

Media:  The internet is queried daily using “gene drive” OR “selfish genetic elements” as search terms and the following search engines Google/Google Alerts and TalkWalker.  Metasearches using Dogpile, and  Yippy are performed weekly.  Search returns that are subject-relevant are will be included in the GeneConvene Virtual Institute knowledgebase if the content contains a byline (content without bylines may not be included), is posted on a site that is well-described in its ‘About’ page (usually entities or organizations), is the creator and source of the content (re-posts of content may not be included). Content from personal websites, blogs and social media are not part of the knowledgebase

Videos/Infographics: Video and Infographics will be identified in the internet searches described in Media using the same criteria.

Content Disclaimer

The GeneConvene Virtual Institute strives to be an inclusive, balanced, fair and transparent source of knowledge about gene drive and other genetic biocontrol technologies.  To achieve the breadth and depth necessary to capture the broad range of activities in the gene drive domain the GeneConvene Virtual Institute does not vet the content entering the knowledgebase for accuracy.  The content in the knowledgebase does not necessarily reflect the views of the GeneConvene Virtual Institute, the GeneConvene Global Collaborative or the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health except where indicated. THE GENECONVENE VIRTUAL INSTITUTE MAKES NO REPRESENTATIONS, WARRANTIES OR GUARANTEES, WHETHER EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED, THAT THE CONTENT IN ITS KNOWLEDGEBASE IS ACCURATE, COMPLETE OR UP TO DATE. TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW, GENECONVENE VIRTUAL INSTITUTE, THE GENECONVENE GLOBAL COLLABORATIVE AND THE FOUNDATION FOR THE NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH EACH DISCLAIM ANY AND ALL LIABILITY ARISING FROM THE SELECTION, POSTING AND/OR USE OF THE CONTENT.

Financial Support

The GeneConvene Virtual Institute is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The GeneConvene Virtual Institute is part of the GeneConvene Global Collaborative  which governed by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health Board of Directors and Governance and advised by the GeneConvene Global Collaborative’s Advisory Board .

GeneConvene Virtual Institute Administrator:  David A. O’Brochta, Ph.D.

Dr. O’Brochta leads the development of the Virtual Institute.   He is primarily responsible for making decisions regarding content to include in the knowledgebase based on Content Inclusion/Exclusion Guidelines and  recommendations and advice from the Virtual Institute’s Content Advisors, and the Director and Advisor Board of the GeneConvene Global Collaborative.  In addition, Dr. O’Brochta is the Technical Lead for Gene Drive Research for the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.  He is also Professor Emeritus (1989-2017) in the Department of Entomology, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA.  His scientific expertise is in the areas of insect genetics, molecular genetics, vector biology and insect biotechnology.  Dr. O’Brochta has contributed substantially to the research, development and application of transgenic insect technologies to the study of basic insect biology.    Dr. O’Brochta’s curriculum vitae.

GeneConvene Content Advisors

The Content Advisors serves as the Virtual InstituteI’s eyes and ears to facilitate the identification of content relevant to the Virtual Institute. Content Advisors are knowledge experts familiar with one or more content areas of the Institute and have agreed to relay gene drive and other genetic biocontrol technology-related content in their areas of expertise to the Virtual InstituteI for consideration of inclusion in the knowledgebase.

Are you interested in being considered as a Content Advisor? Contact the Virtual Institute. geneconvenvi@fnih.org

Zach Adelman, Ph.D.
GeneConvene Content Advisor
Professor
Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA
zachadel@tamu.edu

Dr. Adelman is a professor in the Department of Entomology at Texas A&M University. Dr. Adelman’s research is focused on the development of novel gene editing/gene replacement approaches for disease vector mosquitoes as well as understanding genetic interactions between arthropod-borne viruses and their mosquito vectors.

Peter Atkinson, Ph.D.
GeneConvene Content Advisor
Professor of Genetics
Department of Entomology, University of California, Riverside, California, USA
peter.atkinson@ucr.edu
Website

Dr. Atkinson’s research focuses on developing sustainable genetic control strategies for environmentally-friendly control of medically and agriculturally important insect pest species. His early work led to the discovery and development of new transposable elements which enabled the genetic transformation of insects other than Drosophila to occur. Since the advent of CRISPR/Cas9-based technologies we have shifted our emphasis to using this technology to quickly develop genetic control platforms in pest insects.

Michael Bonsall, Ph.D.
GeneConvene Content Advisor
Professor
Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford, England
michael.bonsall@zoo.ox.ac.uk
Website

Dr. Bonsall’s research interests are in population biology (population dynamics, community ecology, evolutionary ecology). Research in his research group focuses on a wide range of questions such as the population and evolutionary dynamics of life history strategies (e.g. the evolution of longevity), the role of spatial structure on shared enemy and competing enemy interactions, the effects of enrichment on the diversity of ecological communities, the interplay between noise and dynamics in multispecies interactions and the evolution of resistance to microbes.  He also has a strong interest in science policy.

Zachary Brown, Ph.D.
GeneConvene Content Advisor
Associate Professor
Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA
zsbrown2@ncsu.edu
Website

Dr. Brown’s research and teaching broadly revolve around the field of bio-economics, analyzing the dynamic interactions between human behavior and complex environmental and ecological systems, using experimental methods, observational data, mathematical models and theory. His current and previous pursuits include researching the effects of alternative economic incentives and policies for managing pesticide resistance in agricultural systems, public perceptions and consumers’ willingness to pay for food products using new genetic engineering technologies, the economics of controlling vector-borne diseases such as malaria, as well as economic evaluations of more efficient household cook-stoves for reducing air pollution and deforestation.

Flaminia Catteruccia, Ph.D.
GeneConvene Content Advisor
Professor
Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
fcatter@hsph.harvard.edu
Website

Dr. Catteruccia’s research explores the molecular and behavioral parameters that are key to the ability of Anopheles mosquitoes to transmit malaria, with special emphasis on reproductive biology and vector-Plasmodium interactions. Our aim is to provide crucial knowledge to aid the development of new, effective tools for mosquito and malaria control. A key component of our research includes fieldwork studies in Africa on mating biology and natural malaria infections.

Prosper Chaki, Ph.D.
GeneConvene Content Advisor
Executive Director
Pan African Mosquito Control Association (PAMCA), Nairobi, Kenya
pchaki@ihi.or.tz
Website

Dr Chaki is interested in innovations for accelerating malaria elimination particularly novel tools for addressing the current and emerging challenges with mosquito vector control such as outdoor biting mosquito vectors that seem to be at the centre of the malaria transmission question at the moment. He is further committed to harnessing the African based entomological capacity to spearhead capacity building for implementing vector control programs through establishing strong coordination mechanism through regional partnerships and knowledge exchange programs.

Jackson Champer
GeneConvene Content Advisor
Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of Computational Biology and Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Cornell University
jc3248@cornell.edu
Website

Jackson’s research involves designing and modeling gene drive systems, which enable a genetic payload to spread through a population even when imposing a fitness cost on its host organism. His research involves both experiments and modeling of gene drives for population modification or suppression, especially homing drives and CRISPR-based toxin-antidote systems in insects. He focuses on reducing resistance allele formation and developing gene drive systems that can be confined to target populations.

George Dimopoulos, Ph.D.
GeneConvene Content Advisor
Professor
W. Harry Feinstone Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.
gdimopo1@jhu.edu
Website

Dr. Dimopoulos is interested in understanding how the mosquito’s immune system and its intestinal microflora is capable of blocking pathogens and how we can use this knowledge to develop human pathogen resistant mosquitoes. The long-term goals of Dr. Dimopoulos’ research program are to broaden the basic knowledge of this field and provide new tools for the development of disease control strategies

Fred Gould, Ph.D.
GeneConvene Content Advisor
William Neal Reynolds Professor of Agriculture
Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA
fgould@ncsu.edu
Website

Dr. Gould is doing research in applied and basic evolutionary biology of insects. He investigating the genomic basis of pest adaptation to control efforts that use conventional pesticides or genetically engineered crops. He is using population genetic modeling and experiments to make predictions about the utility of novel gene-drive strategies for suppressing or altering the characteristics of pest populations. His research group collaborate with molecular biologists, agronomists, and scholars from social science and humanities disciplines to train students in more holistic approaches to innovation in the life sciences.

Alfred Handler, Ph.D.
GeneConvene Content Advisor
Research Geneticist
United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service Gainesville, Florida, United States
al.handler@usda.gov

Dr. Handler’s research is focused on understanding and manipulating the genes of tephritid fruit flies, a group of invasive pests of significant agricultural importance. His research group studies transposable elements and their use as vectors for germ-line transformation, and development of new vector systems for genomic targeting and transgene stability.

Todd Kuiken, Ph.D.
GeneConvene Content Advisor
Senior Research Scholar
Genetic Engineering & Society Center, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA
tkuiken@ncsu.edu
Website

Dr. Kuiken’s work explores the scientific and technological frontier, stimulating discovery and bringing new tools to bear on public policy challenges that emerge as science advances.  He has been exploring the environmental opportunities/risks associated with emerging technologies. He believes that effective environmental policy is more than just examining the science underpinning technologies, but the philosophies, economics and public perceptions enveloping the ecosystems in which those technologies are designed to impact, directly or indirectly.

Jennifer Kuzma, Ph.D.
GeneConvene Content Advisor
Named Distinguished Professor
School of Public and International Affairs, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, USA
jkuzma@ncsu.edu
Website

Dr. Kuzma is Goodnight-NCGSK Foundation Distinguished Professor in the School of Public and International Affairs, and co-founder and co-director of the Genetic Engineering and Society (GES) Center.  Her areas of expertise include emerging technologies, risk analysis, regulatory policy, and governance and has been studying these areas for over 25 years.  In 2019 she was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science for distinguished translational work in bridging the bench and society, advancing anticipatory governance of new technologies, and contributions to methods for oversight policy analysis.

Alun Lloyd, Ph.D.
GeneConvene Content Advisor
Drexel Professor of Mathematics
Director, Biomathematics Graduate Program
Department of Mathematics, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA
alun_lloyd@ncsu.edu
Website

Dr. Lloyd uses mathematical models and statistical analyses to address questions which arise in many areas of biology. His main interest is in the study of infectious diseases, including the epidemiology of childhood diseases (such as measles) and mosquito-borne infections (such as dengue). He is also interested in biological oscillations, such as circadian and ultradian rhythms, and the properties of biological networks (in a variety of contexts, including metabolic networks, epidemiological or social networks and neuronal networks).

John Marshall, Ph.D.
GeneConvene Content Advisor
Assistant Professor in Residence
University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health, Berkeley, California, USA
john.marshall@berkeley.edu
Website

Dr. Marshall’s research supports efforts to control and eliminate mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue, and Zika virus broadly.  His research interests include genetics-based strategies to control mosquito-borne diseases, and mathematical modeling to support malaria elimination.  He also has an active interest in contributing to the ongoing discussion on the ethical, social, cultural and regulatory implications of his work.

Maciej Maselko, Ph.D.
GeneConvene Content Advisor
Postdoctoral Fellow
BioTechnology Institute and the College of Biological Sciences, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
mmaselko@umn.edu
Website

Dr. Maselko is developing Synthetic Incompatibility; an approach for engineering species-like barriers in sexually reproductive organisms. Synthetic Incompatibility has applications for transgene biocontainment in plants engineered to produce high-value compounds and for controlling pest species such as mosquitoes and invasive fish.

Damaris Matoke, Ph.D.
GeneConvene Content Advisor
Senior Research Scientist
Kenya Medical Research Institute, Nairobi, Kenya
DMatoke@kemri.org

Dr. Matoke-Muhia is a molecular biology research scientist at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and Director Capacity Building, Gender Empowerment and Career Progression in the Pan African Mosquito Control Association (PAMCA) . Her research interest is in utilizing genomics in the control vector borne diseases.  Currently, Dr. Matoke’s research is on malaria and leishmaniasis with a focus on exploring  innovative vector control tools, vector bionomics, insecticide resistance monitoring, population genetic  structure, parasite screening and characterization in correlation with ecological factors, disease epidemiology and climate change.

Raul F. Medina, Ph.D.
GeneConvene Content Advisor
Professor
Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA
rfmedina@tamu.edu
Website

Dr. Medina’s research centers around the role that ecological factors play in the population genetics of arthropods. He is particularly interested in the incorporation of evolutionary ecology considerations into pest control practices. His laboratory conducts research aimed to understand how species interactions among parasites and their hosts get modulated by their microbiota and by the structuring of their genetic variation. He is also interested in understanding the factors that modulate public perception of novel products of biotechnology in agriculture.

Douglas Miano, Ph.D.
GeneConvene Content Advisor
Associate Professor
Department of Plant Science and Crop Protection, University of Nairobi, Nairobi, Kenya
dmiano@uonbi.ac.ke
Website

Prof. Miano’s specializes in plant virology and biotechnology. He is involved in research on cassava, sweetpotato, and maize virus diagnostics and characterization. He is the Kenyan lead scientist in the development of transgenic cassava with resistance to viruses under the Virus Resistant and Nutritionally Enhanced Cassava for Africa (VIRCA Plus) project. He has experience in science communications, biosafety and regulatory issues in the management of GMOs.

Paul Mitchell, Ph.D.
GeneConvene Content Advisor
Professor
Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, USA
pdmitchell@wisc.edu
Website

Dr. Mitchell is the Director of the Renk Agribusiness Institute at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and a faculty member in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics.  His research focuses on the economics of crop production, emphasizing pest management and risk management for commodity crops, and specialty crop economics.  Dr. Mitchell’s extension outreach program is focused broadly on crop economics for all Wisconsin farmers, including both commodity crops and specialty crops, from small diversified organic vegetable growers to large-scale commercial farms.

Kenneth Oye, Ph.D.
GeneConvene Content Advisor
Professor
Department of Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
oye@mit.edu
Website

Dr. Oye is Professor of Political Science (School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences) and Institute for Data Systems and Society (School of Engineering) and Director of the Program on Emerging Technologies (PoET) at MIT, with work on international relations, political economy and technology policy. His work in international relations includes Cooperation under Anarchy, Economic Discrimination and Political Exchange, and four “Eagle” monographs on American foreign policy, and advisory work for the Petersen Institute, UNIDO and US Treasury, Commerce and EXIM. His work in technology policy has focused on adaptive management of risks associated with synthetic biology, pharmaceuticals, the internet and nuclear energy.

Jonathan Pugh, Ph.D.
GeneConvene Content Advisor
Parfit-Radcliffe Richards Senior Research Fellow
The Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford, Oxford, England
jonathan.pugh@philosophy.ox.ac.uk
Website

Dr. Pugh is a Parfit-Radcliffe Richards Senior Research Fellow and Manager of Visitors Programmes for the Oxford Uehiro Centre, University of Oxford. He recently led a Wellcome Trust funded project entitled “The Ethics of Novel Therapeutic Applications of Deep Brain Stimulation”. His research interests lie primarily in issues concerning personal autonomy in practical ethics, particularly topics pertaining to informed consent. He has also written on the ethics of human embryonic stem cell research, criminal justice, human enhancement, and gene-editing.

Gordana Rašić, Ph.D.
GeneConvene Content Advisor
Senior Research Officer
Queensland Institute of Medical Research - Berghofer, Herston, Australia
Gordana.Rasic@qimrberghofer.edu.au
Website

Dr. Rašić’s research is focused on the development of molecular and bioinformatics tools and analytical frameworks for the implementation of innovative vector control strategies, such as Wolbachia-based suppression of arboviral diseases transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. Dr. Rašić has established mosquito population genomics/bioinformatics platforms within two Australian research institutions (University of Melbourne and QIMR Berghofer) and currently leads the laboratory’s population genetics projects

Floyd A. Reed, Ph.D.
GeneConvene Content Advisor
Associate Professor
Department of Biology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
floydr@hawaii.edu
Website

Dr. Reed’s interests and research are in the domain of population genetics. Dr. Reed has interests in aspects of human evolution and in engineering safe and reversible gene drive systems. More recently his research group has been involved in topics related to conservation genetics, invasive species, and harvested marine species.

Larisa Rudenko, Ph.D.
GeneConvene Content Advisor
Research Affiliate
Center for International Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts
lrudenko@mit.edu

Dr. Rudenko studies science-and values-based concerns associated with emerging biotechnologies.  She has been instrumental in developing science-based policies for the regulation of the products of biotechnology nationally and internationally. She has worked in different venues to develop paradigms to assess the risk/safety for genetic alterations in multiple systems from microorganisms to plants and animals (including humans).

Marc Schetelig, Ph.D.
GeneConvene Content Advisor
Professor
Department of Insect Biotechnology in Plant Protection, Justus-Liebig-University Giessen, Germany
marc.schetelig@agrar.uni-giessen.de
Website

Dr. Schetelig’s research focuses on the control of agricultural and disease-related insect pests such as the Mediterranean fruit fly, the Spotted-wing Drosophila, and mosquito species. He is developing technologies for transgene stabilization and the risk assessment of transgenic insects to increase the safety of transgenic systems and allow the direct comparison of different SIT strategies.

Ron Thresher, Ph.D.
GeneConvene Content Advisor
Honorary Postretirement Fellow
CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship, Hobart, Tasmania Australia
Ron.Thresher@csiro.au
Website

Dr. Thresher founded and directed the CSIRO Centre for Research on Introduced Marine Pests, leads a multi-institutional project aimed at developing novel recombinant technologies for controlling invasive mice, carp and oysters, is consulting on the risks involved in using genetic methods for managing disease-vectoring mosquitoes and is revising the taxonomy of Tasmanian mayflies.

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Ernst Wimmer, Ph.D.
GeneConvene Content Advisor
Professor
Department of Developmental Biology, Georg August University of Göttingen, Goettingen Germany
ewimmer@gwdg.de
Website

Dr. Wimmer studies early developmental processes, and their conservation and divergence in different arthropod species.  He also is undertaking research on the biology of odoriferous stink glands and olfaction in beetles, sex determination in flies, and is applying this knowledge to develop transgene- or genome editing-based ecological pest management programs.