Gene Drives across engineered fitness valleys: Modeling a design to prevent drive spillover.

F. J. H. de Haas and S. Otto,  bioRxiv,  2020.10.29.360404. 2020.

Engineered gene drive techniques for population replacement and/or suppression have the potential for tackling complex challenges, including reducing the spread of diseases and invasive species. Unfortunately, the self-propelled behavior of drives can lead to the spread of transgenic elements beyond the target population, which is concerning. Gene drive systems with a low threshold frequency for invasion, such as homing-based gene drive systems, require initially few transgenic individuals to spread and are therefore easy to implement. However, their ease of spread presents a double-edged sword; their low threshold makes these drives much more susceptible to spread outside of the target population (spillover). We model a proposed drive system that transitions in time from a low threshold drive system (homing-based gene drive) to a high threshold drive system (underdominance) using daisy chain technology. This combination leads to a spatially restricted drive strategy while maintaining an attainable release threshold. We develop and analyze a discrete-time model as proof of concept and find that this technique effectively generates stable local population suppression while preventing the spread of transgenic elements beyond the target population under biologically realistic parameters.Competing Interest StatementThe authors have declared no competing interest.

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