Alternative pest control
Invasive pests significantly impact our environment, society and economy. Currently deployed control strategies, such as shooting and poisoning, are crude and brutal. Gene drives are selfish genetic elements that can spread themselves through a population. The recent discovery and repurposing of CRISPR into a set of gene-editing tools has allowed for the development of synthetic gene drives. By targeting a CRISPR-based gene drive to an essential female fertility gene, it is possible to skew the sex-ratio of a pest population away from the favoured ratio of 1:1 male to female. A grossly male population will result in a population decline, while an all-male population will lead to eradication. At present, we are undertaking a proof-of-concept study in mice, which may lead to the development of a more humane, cost-effective and species-specific alternative than current control strategies.