9) My Op-Ed piece in the Boston Globe: Gene editing to stop Lyme disease: caution is warranted.

August 22, 2019 gene-editing-to-stop-lyme-disease-caution-is-warranted/


8) My blog post for Oxford University Press: A New Twist on Rapid Evolution in the Anthropocene.

September 2, 2019

7) My article in BioScience:

Snow, A. A. 2019.  Genetically engineering wild mice to combat Lyme disease: an ecological perspective.  BioScience


Genetic engineering of wild populations has been proposed for reducing human diseases by altering pathogens’ hosts.  For example, CRISPR-based genome editing may be used to create white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) that are resistant to the Lyme disease spirochete vectored by blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis). Towards this goal, academic researchers are developing Lyme-resistant and tick-resistant white-footed mice, which are a primary pathogen reservoir for Lyme disease in the USA.  If field trials on small, experimental islands are successful, the project would scale up to the larger islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and possibly the mainland, most likely with a local gene drive to speed the traits’ proliferation, pending approvals from relevant constituents.  Despite considerable publicity, this project has yet to be evaluated by independent professional ecologists.  Here, I discuss key ecological and evolutionary questions that should be considered before such genetically engineered mice are released into natural habitats.


6) Publication by Buchthal et al. (2019) describing the Mice Against Ticks project


5) ISBR abstracts from workshop on genetically engineered vertebrates (April 2019)

ISBR Abstracts for workshop on gene editing and gene drives in vertebrates-2m1oo83

4) Update on gene-edited tilapia (April 2019)

January 2019 – Argentina’s gene-edited, fast-growing tilapia-2615xdt

3) Genetic biocontrol for invasive species at ISBR, Tarragona, Spain (March 2019)

This satellite event took place on March 31, 2019.

Genetic Biocontrol for Invasive Species

Sarah Descamps
Universiteit Hasselt, Belgium09:45Trojan Y Chromosome Eradication of Invasive Fish
This eradication method to shift the sex ratio of a population involves no transgenes and is currently being actively employed in the wildDan Schill
Idaho Department of Fish and Game, USA10:15Trojan Female Technique
Introduction of a male-harming mitochondrial haplotype via ‘Trojan Females’ achieves population suppression in fruit fliesNeil Gemmell
University of Otago, New Zealand10:45Coffee Break 11:15Trialling Gene Drives Against Invasive Species: Why Islands?
Are there biosafety containment measures that would allow field testing of a gene drive in the environment?Tim Harvey-Samuel
Pirbright Institute, UK11:45In silico Modelling and Laboratory Development of Murine CRISPR-Cas9 Gene Drives
Gene drive as a tool to eradicate invasive species – GBIRD eradication of invasive mice on islandsPaul Thomas
University of Adelaide, Australia12:15Containment Strategies for Gene Drives
Private alleles as a means of containing the spread of gene drive mice to nontarget populations– a GBIRD genetic approach to containmentOwain Edwards
CSIRO, Australia

Toni Piaggio

Karl Campbell
Island Conservation, Ecuador12:45Lunch Break Session 2: Regulatory Considerations for Genetic BiocontrolSession 2: Regulatory Considerations for Genetic BiocontrolSession 2: Regulatory Considerations for Genetic Biocontrol14:00Risk Assessment for Classical Biocontrol
Existing regulatory frameworks for classical biocontrol as a template for considering the release of a genetically modified invasive species into the environmentTrevor Smith
Florida Dept of Agriculture and Consumer Services, USA14:30Regulation of Gene Drive Organisms to Control Invasive Species
Regulatory considerations for environmental risk assessment of gene drives for genetic biocontrol of invasive speciesDetlef Bartsch
Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL), Germany15:00Coffee Break 15:30Regulation of Genetically Modified Organisms for Invasive Species Control
Consideration of environmental risk assessment for GE animals employed for genetic biocontrol in view of the historical experience with GE plantsHeidi Mitchell
Office of the Gene Technology Regulator, Australia16:00Panel Discussion
The different genetic control approaches presented will be compared and important points relating to regulation will be summarizedJohn Teem
ILSI Research Foundation, USA16:45SummaryJohn Teem
ILSI Research Foundation, USA17:00Adjourn

2) Gene editing and gene drives for managing unwanted vertebrates at ISBR, Tarragona, Spain

Announcement – I co-organized this workshop on gene drive research at the 15th International Symposium for Biosafety, April 2, 2019, in Tarragona, Spain, described below.

Workshop 1. Gene Editing and Gene Drives for Managing Unwanted Vertebrates – Current Status and Biosafety Considerations
Organizers: Allison Snow, Ohio State University, USA and Tim Harvey-Samuel, Pirbright Institute, United Kingdom

Summary – Gene editing and gene drives have the potential to alter or suppress populations of unwanted vertebrates such as mice, carp, and feral cats. For example, gene editing has been proposed for blocking Lyme disease in white-footed mice, while gene drives have been proposed for eliminating invasive house mice, rats, and feral cats that threaten endangered species on islands. However, the time frame and feasibility of developing such applications is not clear. The goal of this workshop is to provide updates on scientific progress related to the first applications of these techniques in wild vertebrates. Presentations by six invited speakers will be followed by a panel discussion, with time allocated for questions from the audience. For each study species, speakers will review long-term project goals and preliminary research findings relevant to feasibility and biosafety considerations. Research updates could cover studies to identify sterility genes; gene drives for altered phenotypes; methods for avoiding mutational breakdown of introduced traits; biological confinement strategies; population genetics and gene flow; hybridization, mating behavior, and dispersal; rearing methods for wild species; and data needed for ecological risk assessments. Speakers will identify key research gaps and regulatory approvals that must be addressed during the development of each proposed application. Following these talks, a panel of experts will summarize the status and prospects for gene drive applications. Although public debate is essential for applications of genetically engineered vertebrates, ethical, social, and political issues will not be addressed here due to time constraints. A better understanding of the first proposed applications and anticipated time frames for possible release will be useful to social scientists, regulatory agencies, funding agencies, science writers, NGOs, public stakeholders, and others. Gene drives represent an emerging technology with many imagined applications, consistent with the Symposium theme, “New Horizons in Biotechnology: Risk Analysis for a Sustainable Future.”

Allison Snow, Ohio State University, USA
WS I – 1 Ecological context for the proposed release of Lyme-resistant, white-footed mice: a case study of gene editing.

Owain Edwards, CSIRO, Australia
WS I – 2 Determining the feasibility of gene drives for feral cat control in Australia.

Gus McFarlane, Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
WS I – 3 A CRISPR-Cas9 split drive targeting female reproduction in mice.

Paul Thomas, University of Adelaide, Australia
WS I – 4 Safe development of CRISPR gene drives for invasive rodent population suppression.

Michael Smanski, University of Minnesota, USA
WS I – 5 Engineering genetic incompatibility and applications for controlling invasive fish populations.

Keith Hayes, CSIRO, Australia
WS I – 6 Principles of probabilistic risk assessment for genetic biocontrol.

Panel Discussion
Chair: Tim Harvey-Samuel, Pirbright Institute, United Kingdom


1) Will Argentina’s gene-edited, fast-growing tilapia be regulated? (January 2019)

January 2019 – Argentina’s gene-edited, fast-growing tilapia-2615xdt