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UVI to Host Lectures on Cutting Edge Dengue Fever Research

Aedes Aegyptii Mosquito

The University of the Virgin Islands will host lectures on cutting edge research designed to drastically reduce the occurrence of dengue fever at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 28, in the Administration and Conference Center’s first floor conference room on the St. Thomas Campus. A second lecture will be held at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 29, in the Great Hall of the Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix. Oxitec Limited Chief Executive Officer Hadyn Parry and Oxitec Head of Public Health Research Dr. Derric Nimmo will discuss their research on combating the dengue virus. They plan to genetically engineer mosquitos to kill the dengue causing mosquito. The UVI Community and the general public are invited to attend.                                                                                                                     

 “Dengue fever creates numerous negative effects for many in the Virgin Islands and around the world,” said UVI President Dr. David Hall. “As an educational institution that embraces and cultivates the power of scientific research as an avenue to address critical medical and social issues, UVI is honored to host this presentation by Dr. Parry and Dr. Nimmo.” Dr. Hall continued, “This research is on the cutting edge of development in regards to curtailing and eliminating mosquitoes that carry the dengue virus. This insightful and stimulating program should not be missed."

Dr. Parry has an extensive background in the life science sector. During his 15-year career at Zeneca/Syngenta, an agrochemical company, he held various positions, including general manager of Zeneca Plant Sciences and European director. He has also served as global head of research and development for Advanta, one of the world’s largest seed companies. More recently he was CEO of MNL Pharmaceuticals, a company that was focused on pioneering a novel approach in immunology. Dr. Parry is also chairman of Help For Heroes, a charity founded in 2007 to support wounded British soldiers.

“Health authorities around the world are struggling to combat the mosquito that spreads dengue,” said Dr. Parry. “Oxitec's approach exclusively targets the dengue carrying mosquito in a way that is both effective and environmentally sound. We are delighted to visit the U.S. Virgin Islands and discuss the progress we have seen in other countries using the approach.”

“The people of the USVI have a high risk of infection with the dengue virus because it is endemic in the Caribbean,” said UVI Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Jennilee Beth Robinson. “The territory will benefit greatly by reducing the health risk of the dengue mosquito, Aedes aegyptii.”

 She said past campaigns involving insecticidal spraying have been ineffective at controlling the dengue mosquito and Oxitec's approach may allow the territory to replace controversial insecticide use. “I anticipate continued discussion of whether their technology could be used towards reducing dengue transmission here in the USVI,” said Dr. Robinson. “I look forward to discussing with scientists from Oxitec exactly how their technology could be used to control the dengue mosquitoes threatening our islands.”

Oxitec Limited leads research in controlling insects that spread disease and damage crops throughout the world. They are based in the United Kingdom – originating from Oxford University. Oxitec's methods of reducing the mosquitoes that spread dengue are based upon historically successful procedures used for control of agricultural crop pests. The diseases caused by dengue fever virus can be life-threatening, and deaths have occurred in the USVI because of these infections. Dengue fever is difficult to prevent and treat due to lack of a prophylactic vaccine and specific anti-viral drugs for therapy.