A unifying approach to gene drive

P. Verma, R. Reeves and C. S. Gokhale,  bioRxiv,  2020.02.28.970103. 2020.

Synthetic gene drive technologies aim to spread transgenic constructs into wild populations even when they impose organismal fitness disadvantages. The properties of gene drive constructs are diverse and depend on their molecular construction, and differential selection pressure they impose in the varied ecological situations they encounter. The extraordinary diversity of conceivable drive mechanisms and the range of selective parameters they may encounter makes it very difficult to convey their relative predicted properties. The sheer number of published manuscripts in this field, experimental and theoretical, is a testament to the possibilities presented by this technology. We evaluate and condense the essential synthetic drive mechanisms from a variety of studies and present a unified mathematical paradigm (and a user-friendly tool DrMxR – Drive Mixer) describing the properties of a wide variety of single construct gene drives (non-suppression). Within this common framework, we have been able to recapitulate key published results derived using bespoke modelling frameworks. Because a unified framework is employed, it is also possible to seamlessly explore the consequences of combining multiple drive approaches within a single construct. We provide a method for analytically assessing the measure of invasiveness of a drive construct. As opposed to typical studies of synthetic drives, we explore the resilience of such drives in a spatially explicit manner advancing the connection between realistic spatial dynamics and typical well-mixed populations. Besides a scientific advance, our results and the tools provided an intuitive and objective way for regulators, scientists and NGOs to evaluate the properties and robustness of proposed and future gene drive approaches.