An experimental project using genetic modification (GM) mosquitoes to “vaccinate” people against malaria was financed by the NIH.
The study was undertaken by a group of UW researchers, and it was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Over the course of 30 days, 26 people were given three to five “jabs,” or bites, from a tiny box holding 200 genetically modified mosquitoes.
Trial participants employ a gene-editing method that has been aggressively advocated by Bill Gates, and the study is tied to Sanaria, a firm partially supported by the Gates Foundation (BMGF).
“Flying syringes” created from genetically engineered insects.
Participants in the research were infected with a “minor” strain of malaria caused by Plasmodium mosquitoes that had been genetically engineered to prevent them from producing serious diseases in humans.
According to the study’s principal author, Dr. Sean Murphy, mosquitoes are “used like 1,000 miniature flying needles,” as reported by NPR.
The hoopla surrounding this research doesn’t seem to match the consistency of the study’s actual outcomes.
Malaria was transmitted to 7 of the 14 study participants who were exposed to the parasite. The “vaccine’s” protective effects did not extend more than just a few months for the other seven.
The research indicates that:
Half of those who received the vaccination in both groups were protected against developing a P. falciparum infection, and some of those people were also protected when they were exposed to a subsequent [Controlled Experimental Malaria Infection] after six months.
“Infections due to P. falciparum are most likely to proceed to severe, possibly deadly forms of malaria,” said the Centers for Prevention and Control (CDC).
“what one would anticipate after being bit by thousands of mosquitoes nothing more than that,” according to a study on the trial participants’ adverse effects.
Carolina Reid, who took part in the trial, told NPR that her whole forearm “swelled and blistered.”
Researchers stated that “results promote the ongoing development of selectively attenuated sporozoites as possible malaria vaccines,” despite the study’s contradictory findings.
Even as the P. falciparum pathogen rapidly develops within the mosquito, the researchers argued that employing live insects made more sense than using a vaccine that can be administered by syringe.
The development of a syringe-delivered form of the parasite was also noted to be “expensive and time-consuming.”
However, Murphy claims that the research will not be utilized to vaccinate large groups of people. Scientists who participated in the experiment, however, expressed optimism that the method they used may one day lead to the creation of a “significantly more effective” malaria vaccine.
There is now just one vaccination available for malaria. Although the RTS, S vaccine developed by GlaxoSmithKline was given WHO approval in October 2021, the vaccine’s claimed effectiveness is just 30-40%.
University of Maryland vaccine researcher Dr. Kirsten Lyke called the team’s decision to employ a genetically engineered live parasite like a vaccine “old school,” but she called it “a major game changer.”
Lyke told NPR, “Everything old becomes new again.”
While Lyke did not participate in the genetically modified mosquito malaria experiment, he did act as the principal investigator for the Phase 1 trials of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and as a co-investigator for the COVID-19 vaccine studies conducted by Moderna & Novavax.
Lyke’s method is already being improved on by the group, according to Stefan Kappe, senior parasitologist now at Washington State University and also the Seattle Children’s Research Institute and one of the study’s authors. Kappe also noted that the team feels “we can clearly do better.”
According to Kappe, however, “expanding production capabilities to scale up production would need investment.”
The study’s authors noted that syringes would be used to give the vaccine in the future because they allow for a “more exact dose.”
To better prepare the human body for an immunological response, Lyke suggests using a little more developed variant of the GM parasite employed in this research.
To further clarify, Murphy said that, unlike the RTS, S vaccine, his group’s strategy employs a full weakened parasite rather than a single parasite-produced protein.
They employed genetically modified parasites supplied by a company with ties to Bill Gates.
NPR reports that Washington State University collaborated on the development of the modified parasites with “little firm” Sanaria.
Sanaria bills itself as “a biotechnology business creating vaccinations protective against malaria,” and claims that its vaccines “have shown highly resistant towards Plasmodium falciparum infection among people.”
Another claim made by the firm was that it has created “a new approach to malaria employing Plasmodium falciparum (Pf) sporozoites (SPZ) as a platform technology for immunizing humans against malaria infection.”
The PATH VMI and the Institute of OneWorld Health are two of Sanaria’s recognized contributors, and both get money from the BMGF.
With the goal of working with collaborators in private industry, gov’t, as well as academia to create malaria vaccines,” PATH describes itself as “an international nonprofit organization that drives transcendent innovation can save lives and improve public health” and “the founding organization of the Malaria Vaccine Initiative.”
Malaria is a very complicated parasite, and PATH VMI claims it consults and collaborates with “public institutions, corporations, grassroots organizations, and investors to confront the world’s hardest global health crises.”
The BMGF has been supporting PATH VMI since 2008 when it awarded the organization $168 million.
Chevron, the ExxonMobil Corporation, USAID Malaria Vaccine Programmes, and Open Philanthropy are just a few of the organizations that have contributed to PATH VMI in addition to the BMGF.
It was in May 2022 that a worldwide epidemic of monkeypox happened, just as a tabletop simulation financed by Open Philanthropy (of whom Dustin Moscovitz is a major backer) “predicted” it would happen that month.
The last decade has seen Open Philanthropy donate and give tens of millions of dollars to “global health,” “biosecurity and pandemic preparation,” and “global catastrophic risks.”
In turn, the BMGF has awarded many funds to the Institute on OneWorld Health, which states that it “partner[s] with populations in developing nations to offer permanent, sustainable care to the terminally underserved,” including a grant in 2004 for the creation of a malaria vaccine.
The European Vaccine Initiative, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Military Infectious Disease Research Program, and the National Institute of Allergy or Infectious Diseases, led by Dr. Anthony Fauci, are also contributors to Sanaria.
Gates’s excitement in gene editing is “off the charts.”
The parasites in the recent study at the University in Washington were unique in that they had been “disarmed” through the use of CRISPR, or Tightly grouped Regularly Interspaced Palindromic Repeats, gene editing techniques.
“a component of bacterial autoimmune that can cut DNA,” CRISPR “has been repurposed as either a gene editing tool” because it “acts as a precise pair of molecular scissors which can cut a target DNA sequence, focused by a customizable guide” (a piece of RNA with a “guide” sequence that connects to the target DNA sequence).
I was reading on geekwire.com, and apparently:
CRISPR-Cas9 or other gene-editing methods are being used to alter mosquito genomes to prevent them from transmitting the parasites that cause malaria and other mosquito-borne illnesses.
Gates, an avid supporter of CRISPR, has already proposed using technology to eradicate malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
A story on Business Insider from 2018 states:
“Gates has long advocated for the use of gene-editing technologies. He was an early backer of Editas Medicine, a company that is pioneering the use of CRISPR to eradicate illness in humans.
Researchers at the Gates Foundation have spent almost a decade perfecting methods of using genetic editing to boost agricultural yields and eradicate malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
Gates discussed the possible uses of CRISPR in the fight against malaria in a piece published in Foreign Affairs in 2018:
“Scientists are also going to explore other ways of using CRISPR to inhibit mosquitoes’ ability to transmit malaria, including the introduction of genes that could eliminate this same parasite as they cross through a mosquito’s gut on their way towards its salivary glands,” which is the main route by which infections are transferred from mosquitoes to humans.
Gates said that his “excitement about CRISPR has increased from very high to off the charts” in a 2021 blog post discussing new breakthroughs in the field.
On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of CRISPR’s “birthday,” which was celebrated in July, Gates tweeted that the technology was “one of the most significant breakthroughs in medicine, biology, and agriculture.”
Additionally, Gates and Gavi, A Vaccine Alliance, a partner of the BMGF, contributed to the development of the now licensed RTS, S malaria vaccine.
There are, however, researchers who are less bullish on CRISPR’s gene-editing potential and who caution against the potential for unforeseen negative outcomes.
Examples include 2020 evidence from scientist Claire Robinson of GMWatch & Michael Antoniou of King’s College London, who warned:
“There are many different kinds of unexpected genetic mutations that occur as a result of GM (including genetic manipulation) of crops, animals, and foods, and these mutations change the function of many gene systems in an organism in ways that are difficult to anticipate.
Changes in gene expression will have far-reaching effects on an organism’s biochemistry, it has been said.
Even in his 2018 piece for Foreign Affairs, Gates did not avoid addressing the many moral questions raised by CRISPR.
But Gates and or the BMGF have long been advocates of genetically modified mosquitoes, long before CRISPR was ever invented.
Oxitec, a company that has used genetically modified mosquitoes in trial operations in Florida and Brazil, received financing from the BMGF with the stated goal of limiting the transmission of mosquito-borne viruses.
The genetically modified mosquitoes released in Brazil were supposed to be sterile, but researchers later discovered that some of them had really reproduced.
Reportedly “heavily engaged” in studies of genetically modified mosquitoes in India, the BMGF went so far as to suggest in 2017 (in conjunction with the Johns Hopkins Institute for Communication Programs) the creation of a mosquito avatar, to be “used for public health initiatives.”