The British biotech company Oxitec is moving ahead with its controversial plan to release hundreds of millions of gene-hacked mosquitoes, an experimental new form of targeted pest control, in the Florida Keys.
The goal is essentially to introduce a new genetically altered version of the Aedes aegypti mosquito — which can spread diseases like dengue and malaria — that can only hatch male, non-biting offspring, in order to gradually reduce the population.
A connection that has gone mostly unremarked during the experiment’s rollout is the involvement of Microsoft co-founder and public health philanthropist Bill Gates in the funding of the company, confirmed by Oxitec back in 2018, through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Based on past reports, it seems that the Gates Foundation pledged about $4.1 million to Oxitec in 2018 to develop a new mosquito that would target malaria in the Americas, South Asia, and eastern Africa. Oxitec was also reportedly awarded $5 million for its Aedes mosquitoes — the kind set for release in Florida — through the Gates Foundation’s Global Grand Challenges initiative in 2010. Meanwhile, Science Magazine reported in 2010 that the Gates Foundation had dished out $19.7 million for a project in which Oxitec took part.