Supporters: Standardized Definition of Gene Drive

Standardizing the Definition of Gene Drive

L. S. Alphey, A. Crisanti, F. Randazzo and O. S. Akbari,  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,  202020417. 2020.
As members of the gene drive community, we have developed a set of definitions to help stakeholders discuss the topic and communicate using a common understanding of terms.

Definitions of “gene drive” from Alphey et al (2020):

“Because the field continues to evolve, we consider this a living document that will be hosted by the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) GeneConvene Global Collaborative Virtual Institute ( and will be updated periodically as needed.

Gene drive: “Gene drive” is used both to describe a process or phenomenon (the biological activity of gene drive) and to describe an object (“a gene drive”). The term sometimes is also used to describe a management tool or intent for product development or regulatory purposes.

  1. Process or Phenomenon: A gene drive is a phenomenon of biased inheritance in which the prevalence of a genetic element (natural or synthetic) or specific alternate form of a gene (allele) is increased, even in the presence of some fitness cost. This leads to the preferential increase of a specific genotype that may determine a specific phenotype from one generation to the next, and potentially spread throughout a population.

Less technical version: A gene drive is a process that promotes or favors the biased inheritance of certain genes from generation to generation

  1. Material Object: A gene drive is comprised of one or more genetic elements that can cause the process of biased inheritance in its favor. The set of necessary elements may be referred to as a gene drive system or simply a “gene drive.”   Note that the presence of gene drive elements will not necessarily cause gene drive – many gene drive systems will cause the gene drive phenomenon only under specific circumstances, e.g. if they are present in the population above a certain threshold frequency, or if fitness costs are below a certain threshold. Note that gene drive, when defined as an object, need not always confer preferential transmission. Gene drives must ensure biased inheritance under at least some circumstances, but not necessarily all circumstances. For example, some gene drive systems confer preferential inheritance only when present in the population above a threshold frequency.

Less technical version: A gene drive is any genetic element able to bias its inheritance within a population.

  • Intention: A gene drive may be intended as a management tool to achieve a particular goal. A gene drive may include additional “cargo” elements, in addition to the drive components, that are intended to introduce new trait(s) into an interbreeding population so as to effect a change in the characteristics of the population. A gene drive also may cause effects directly, for example by inserting into and disrupting a target gene. Thus,

Less technical version: A gene drive is a tool to effect certain changes in a population.”

We invite all those interested in gene drive technologies to indicate your support for this standardization initiative by becoming a signatory, and to  use these definitions as appropriate in your publications and communications.

Register your support

0 + 4 = ?

The following have expressed their support for these standardized definitions of gene drive

First Name Last Name Title Affiliation
ElenaDalla Benetta PhD UCSD
Yu Cai Senior Principal Investigator Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory, Singapore
JohnMarshallAssistant Professor School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley
MichaelSantosAssociate Vice President, Science Foundation for NIH
Stephanie James Senior Vice President, Science Foundation for NIH
DavidO’BrochtaProfessor EmeritusDepartment of Entomology, University of Maryland, College Park
Hector QuemadaPrincipal Research Associate Western Michigan University
HollyTutenAssociate Scientist – Vector Ecology University of Illinois
GordanaRasic Senior Research Officer QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute
Héctor M. Sánchez C. PhD University of California, Berkeley
WILLY TONUI Executive Director EHS Consultancy Ltd, Kenya
Charles Guissou Dr Institut de Recherche en Sciences de la Santé (IRSS), Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso
Austin Burt Professor of Evolutionary Genetics Professor of Evolutionary Genetics
Omar Akbari Professor Professor
Tom Turpen Principal Technology Innovation Group
Tony Nolan Dr Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
Estela Gonzalez Fernandez PhD The Pirbright Institute
Luke Alphey Professor The Pirbright Institute
Raiza Stephany Rivera Research Assistant Institute on Ethics and Policy for Innovation, McMaster University
Matthew Grellette Research Associated Institute on Ethics and Policy for Innovation
Travis Ramsay Research and Policy Analyst Institute on Ethics and Policy for Innovation