OXFORD, England, June 23, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --
Oxitec, a pioneer in the control of insects that spread disease and damage crops, today announced the completion of a £6.1 million ($10.2 million) investment round. The oversubscribed fundraising was supported by existing shareholders, Oxford Capital Partners, the University of Oxford and East Hill Management, who were joined by a number of international private investors from South America, Europe and Asia.
The investment follows the first approval of Oxitec's novel technology for the control of dengue mosquitoes, which was granted in April by the Brazilian National Technical Commission for Biosecurity (CTNBio). The company intends to use the new funds to establish commercial production facilities to enable the roll out of dengue mosquito control programmes, initially in Brazil. The funding will also support local recruitment and training for the programmes, and allow Oxitec to expand its activities into additional countries impacted by dengue fever.
Oxitec's pioneering technology produces a unique strain of the dengue mosquito (Aedes aegypti), which contains specific sterility and marker genes. To control dengue mosquito populations, Oxitec males are released to mate with wild females in the treated area. Male Aedes aegypti do not bite, and therefore do not spread the dengue virus. The resulting offspring inherit the additional genes and die before becoming adults. They also inherit the marker, which is visible under a specific wave length of light, allowing simple programme monitoring in the field. A series of trials in Brazil, Malaysia and Grand Cayman have demonstrated the success of the company's approach, with successive releases of Oxitec males significantly reducing the wild dengue mosquito population. Oxitec is currently conducting similar trials in Panama and plans to undertake approval-scale studies in the Florida Keys shortly.
"This new investment marks a strategic milestone for Oxitec, as we begin the process of commercialising our unique approach to controlling dengue mosquitoes following our first approval in Brazil," said Hadyn Parry, Chief Executive Officer of Oxitec. "The World Health Organisation estimates that almost half of the world's population is now at risk from dengue, and with no specific treatment or vaccine available, effective techniques for controlling the mosquitoes that spread this potentially fatal virus are urgently needed. Oxitec's mosquitoes represent a novel and safe approach to combating dengue, and we look forward to working with authorities around the world to make our technology available."
The Aedes aegypti mosquito is the main vector of the dengue virus, which infects an estimated 390 million people per year worldwide. Infection can result in dengue fever, with a variety of symptoms, including nausea, acute pain and fever. In more serious cases it can develop into potentially fatal dengue haemorrhagic fever. The dengue mosquito lives in and around the home and is difficult to control. Conventional methods have proved unable to prevent the spread of the disease resulting in an estimated 30 fold increase in incidence globally in the last 50 years. Currently, there is no specific medication or vaccine available for dengue. The same mosquito Aedes aegypti is also a vector of yellow fever and chikungunya.
Oxitec is a pioneer in controlling insects that spread disease and damage crops. It was established in 2002 as a spin-out from the University of Oxford. Oxitec's first products are for the control of Aedes aegypti, the mosquito species primarily responsible for transmitting dengue fever, and the Mediterranean fruit fly, one of the world's most damaging agricultural pests.
SOURCE Oxitec Ltd