Biocontrol has been used successfully in pest management for decades. The use of gene technology has been limited by the 50/50 rule for inheritance of any genetic trait (e.g. blue eyes). A powerful new tool called ‘gene drive’, overcomes 50/50 inheritance by duplicating itself during sexual reproduction, ultimately pushing itself into every member of a pest population. It works in mosquitos but will it work in vertebrates (mice, rats, carp)?
This project will build a framework to assess the knowledge gaps that currently exist, the feasibility and a means to prioritize gene drive in our efforts to control vertebrate pest animals.
The major project objective is to conduct two guided workshops and off-line discussions with a broad range of key stakeholders that have been identified.
The process will develop the key components for a framework that can be used to evaluate and prioritise the suitability of different pests for development of appropriate gene drive solutions.
This will include methods to evaluate the readiness level of the data need to develop a gene drive for a pest species, where the knowledge gaps are, the risk analysis required and the pathway for developing social licence and eventual business models for deployment.
The objectives are set in the context of earlier evaluation systems:
Net benefit of investment; this will be to have an evaluated pathway and identified funding sources to begin development of a gene drive project meeting the needs of at least one stakeholder segments. Alternatively the net benefit will be a decision not to make any further investment in gene drive development because gaps or barriers have been identified that cannot be overcome within acceptable timeframes. This will either validate the necessary investments or alternatively preserve significant resources to contribute to traditional control measures or to explore new innovations.
Impacts across five dimensions (demand, supply, risk, environment, social); demand for new tools is quite clear across a range of pest species. This project will provide a decision gate and prioritisation system to determine the potential for supply of this technology as a control tool for particular pests and will involve the scoping of risk, environmental benefit and the social dimensions that this could deliver.
Changes in practice and behaviour (outcomes – qualitative and quantitative); the outputs from this project will provide a balanced analysis of the benefits and risks and all relevant dimensions of gene drive which will be used to engage with the key stakeholders that could support the technical development of gene drive should this be the final decision. Alternatively this outcome will enable the CISS stakeholders to shelve the technology, move forward and direct their investment to other technologies.