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Nature Features GBIRd—The Promise of Gene Drives

Nature features Island Conservation’s GBIRd Program Manager, Royden Saah, and the impact gene drive could have for preventing extinctions.

Researchers around the world are studying the possibility of using gene drives for preventing the spread of diseases and ridding islands of invasive species. The Genetic Biocontrol of Invasive Rodents (GBIRd) program is a partnership between universities, governments, and non-governmental organizations including Island Conservation focused on exploring this innovative tool for preventing extinctions.

The removal of invasive species is one of the most effective conservation actions available today, but current technology is not enough to restore all the world’s islands.

They are feasible on only about 15% of islands,” says Royden Saah, GBIRd’s program manager. “We are trying to look at technologies that would take care of the other 85%.”

The development of new tools such as gene drives is vital to continuing to restore island ecosystems and preventing the extinction of threatened species. Although research and the development of gene drives have become common in mosquitoes, the release of a gene drive mice is years away.

The GBIRd program is working to understand not only the science behind the use of gene drives in mice but also to understand the social acceptability of this work. The release of a gene drive mouse is far off, but GBIRd is already working to with ethicists, scientists, and risk assessors to fully understand both the risks and the possibilities of gene drive.

We want to make sure we get this right,” says Saah. “No matter how fast the technologies move, we can advance the social sciences and the ethics now.”

Innovation and new solutions including the use of gene drives are the next frontier of conservation and will enable us to continue preventing extinctions.

Read the original article in Nature
Featured photo: Two Masked Boobies on San Ambrosio Island, Desventuradas, Chile. Credit: Lukas Mekis/Island Conservation

About Island Conservation

Island Conservation prevents extinctions by removing invasive species from islands. To date, we have successfully restored 63 islands worldwide, benefiting 1173 populations of 468 species and subspecies. Working together with local communities, government management agencies, and conservation organizations, we select islands that have the greatest potential for preventing the extinction of globally threatened species.

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