Apr 22, 2021 - Economy

Genetically modified mosquito startup raises $6.8 million in venture capital

Mosquito on human skin.

Photo: Image Point FR/NIH/NAID/BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Oxitec, a British startup that plans to release genetically modified mosquitoes into Florida, on Thursday announced that it raised $6.8 million in venture capital from the Wellcome Trust.

Why it matters: This is one of the world's most controversial startups, even though everyone applauds its mission of reducing instances of mosquito-borne diseases like Zika and dengue fever.

State of play: Oxitec already has released more than a billion bugs, including in Brazil and the Cayman Islands, and last year the EPA and state officials approved field tests in the Florida Keys.

The bottom line: Oxitec mosquitoes are all males that carry a "self-limiting" gene released when they breed, resulting in a generation that dies before adulthood. It's a novel solution to human disease spread — particularly where native mosquitoes are increasingly resistant to insecticides — but many locals are concerned about how this will impact the broader ecosystem.

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