The Rio Olympics is fast approaching and the world is closely watching how Brazil is handling the Zika outbreak. Against this background, it was interesting to see the results of the latest trial of Oxitec's technology.
Oxitec, an alumnus of the Oxford Capital portfolio, can dramatically cull disease-carrying insects, by releasing genetically modified 'sterile' males into native populations. The modified insects produce offspring that can't survive to reproductive age. So when Oxitec's insects successfully mate, the size of subsequent generations is reduced.
In their latest trial, which took place in a region of Brazil, Oxitec used its Friendly™Aedes mosquitoes to reduce the population of insects which carry dengue fever. The trial showed a 90% reduction in instances of the disease.
This could be great news in the fight against Zika, which is carried by exactly the same species of mosquito.
Oxford Capital first invested in Oxitec ten years ago, and last year the company was bought by Intrexon for a headline price of $160m. In Venture Capital, it is easy to get caught up in the latest piece of exciting tech or the next big money spinner. But Oxitec's story is a good reminder that Venture Capital can also help to turn University research into companies that have the potential to improve and save lives all around the world.
“Over the course of one year, we were able to bring the dengue fever incidence down by more than 50% in Piracicaba — the outcome of diligent work to eliminate still water spots, the breeding site of the mosquito,” said the city’s Secretary of Health, Pedro Mello. “In CECAP/Eldorado, where we had the Friendly™ Aedes project, the reduction was extraordinary, going over 90%.”