How it Works
Announcing our collaboration with Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District
Friday, March 24, 2017
Today, we’re delighted to announce that we have partnered with the Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District (CMAD) in Fresno County, California to better study the local infestation of invasive
A regional government entity formed shortly after World War II, CMAD brings not only decades of experience in mosquito control, but also direct experience with innovative control techniques. We’re fortunate to be joined in this effort by
. They have previously
with CMAD to study the effect of
We look forward to a fruitful collaboration against one of mankind's bitterest foes.
Yi Han, Product Manager
Announcing our partnership with MosquitoMate
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
We are happy to announce that we have entered into a partnership with
to test our automated mosquito rearing and release technologies. Founded in 2010 by University of Kentucky professor Stephen Dobson, MosquitoMate has extensive experience using male
mosquitoes infected with
as a mosquito control tool, making them a natural partner in our mission to scale the sterile insect technique (SIT) and locally eliminate invasive
mosquitoes. We look forward to working together.
Brad White, Debug Science Lead
A research update from our colleagues at CSIRO
Thursday, January 12, 2017
We thought we’d start 2017 by sharing some results of the Queensland fieldwork being conducted by our Australian partners, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and James Cook University (JCU). The original post "How far will a male mosquito travel to find a mate – and will he cross the road?" from December 22, 2016 is available
on the CSIRO mosquito project blog.
Nigel Snoad, Product Manager
How far will a male mosquito travel to find a mate – and will he cross the road?
By Helen Cook, CSIRO
Compare the pair: red dye was used to mark mosquitoes.
No, it’s not a joke. Pose this question to a member of our local Innisfail mosquito research project and they’ll give you a straight answer – On average less than 100 metres, and yes but most prefer not to. Yes, male mozzies
[Australian for mosquito]
do cross the road, or at least Mourilyan Road in East Innisfail where the project team has been studying the behaviour of the male Aedes aegypti mosquito; the female of the species transmits the dengue and Zika viruses.
Over the course of the five-week ‘Mark, Release Recapture’ (MRR) study 3000 male mosquitoes marked with a dye were released and then recaptured through a network of over 70 traps set in residents backyards, all to see how far the mosquitoes fly, how quickly they mate and how long they live. “The long-term goal of our research in Innisfail is to show that we can suppress and even remove the invasive Aedes aegypti mosquito from the urban landscape,” Project Manager Helen Murphy said. “Understanding the behaviour of the male mosquito is key to achieving this goal.”
“In 2017 we hope to carry out further studies and test new technologies being developed in the USA by project partner Verily [a Google affiliate]. These studies will involve releasing male mosquitoes that are effectively sterile,” Dr Murphy said. “If the sterile male mates with a wild female, the eggs she lays won’t hatch, thereby limiting the number in the next generation of Aedes aegypti. If we get our numbers right this would mean that the Aedes aegypti population would quickly die-off in the community.”
The CSIRO Innisfail mozzie team released over 3000 males mosquitos in East Innisfail, far north Queensland, where with residents support they had set over 70 traps – all to see how far the mozzies would go to find a mate.
Left to right: Ben Purcell, Caleb Anning, Dr Nigel Beebe (CSIRO Project Lead), Brendan Trewin (photo by team member Andrew Ford)
In the New Year the project team will expand their community engagement activities to share their plans with Innisfail residents, describing a small study to release sterile male mosquitoes in the first half of the year. If this is supported and successful, the project team will plan for a larger study towards the end of 2017.
“These initial studies in Innisfail will be the first of their kind carried out internationally as part of our recently launched
,” Debug Product Manager Dr. Nigel Snoad said. “We are pleased with the initial results from the MRR and the high level of community support for our work, but we’re really just at the ‘preschool’ stage of what is a long-term world-wide project,” he said. “Working with CSIRO and James Cook University we expect to learn a lot by doing the next set of studies in 2017. We want to see the back of these bad bugs not only in Innisfail but across the world.”
For more information about the project, see
or the CSIRO
Debug partners with CSIRO and JCU in Australia
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Early in the development of what is now Debug, our team began connecting with various organizations who specialize in the study and control of mosquitoes. The
Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO)
stood out to us along with
James Cook University (JCU)
. CSIRO is globally recognized for its expertise in the study of insects and control of invasive pests including mosquitoes, and JCU has world leading experience and facilities for understanding mosquito behaviour. As our project developed, our goals began to align with the knowledge and research infrastructure of CSIRO and its partners.
Today, I’m happy to announce that we have formed a research partnership with CSIRO and JCU. The focus of our work will be on field research and mosquito behaviour broadly and will be based primarily in northern Australia. Not only is it exciting for the Debug team to work with some of the most highly regarded research institutions in Australia, but it also brings back great memories for me personally: my first job at age 17 was as a research assistant at CSIRO, where I not only learned how to design and run experiments, but also how science with a mission could make an impact on the world.
Verily, CSIRO, and JCU staff are excited to be working together. Please be assured that Professor Scott Ritchie from JCU was not harmed in the taking of this photo.
Now, our three organizations have the shared goal of better understanding
- the mosquito that spreads dengue, Zika, chikungunya and Yellow Fever. We’re hoping this knowledge will help us develop new strategies for fighting a species that is invasive to Australia and has a huge impact on human health globally. CSIRO’s knowledge of local communities and experience in the field in Australia is unparalleled, and we’re looking forward to working with the combined CSIRO and JCU teams to further develop and refine our tools and approach.
Check out CSIRO’s
for more details, and stay tuned to our blog for updates on this research.
Nigel Snoad, Product Manager
Introducing the Debug Project
Thursday, October 6, 2016
Mosquitoes kill more people than every other animal combined. The diseases they spread sicken hundreds of millions of people each year. Towards the end of 2014, some of us at Google started exploring what we could do to help solve the mosquito problem. Serendipitously, around that same time, Verily was founded (initially as Google Life Sciences) with the objective of solving hard problems in science and biology with the ultimate goal of preventing disease on a global scale. It was a perfect match.
We talked with experts from around the world working on many different approaches. One stood out to us: the
the sterile insect technique
(SIT). The idea is to release sterile insects to mate with wild ones. No offspring result from these matings. So if enough sterile insects are released, they can reduce, or even locally eliminate, the wild population.
The sterile insect technique was first developed in the 1950s to combat a livestock pest called the
New World screwworm
. Here in California, SIT is used to control
Mediterranean fruit fly
. Unlike chemical pesticides, sterile insects are exquisitely precise. Insects only mate with others of their own species.
There have been many attempts over the years to use SIT to control mosquitoes. One problem is that the traditional method of using radiation to sterilize insects doesn’t work well on mosquitoes. The radiation dose necessary to sterilize mosquitoes makes them bad at mating. Recently, new techniques have been developed including one using a naturally-occurring bacteria called
. This bacteria sterilizes mosquitoes, while preserving their ability to compete for mates in the wild.
Another problem is cost. For SIT to work, a lot of mosquitoes must be raised and released. A lot of male mosquitoes, specifically. Male and female mosquitoes feed on plant nectar, but only females bite and feed on blood. By releasing only males, which can’t bite, there aren’t more mosquitoes that can spread disease. Unfortunately, raising mosquitoes and separating the males from females is currently very labor intensive, making it too expensive to deploy at a large scale.
We decided to focus on the problem of reducing that cost with automation. We’re using Verily’s combination of data analytics, sensors, lab automation technology, and scientific expertise to solve specific issues around mass-production and sex-sorting of mosquitoes, and to enable efficient and targeted releases.
We also decided to focus on one particular mosquito: Aedes aegypti. While there are thousands of different species of mosquito, Aedes aegypti is the primary vector of dengue, Zika, chikungunya and yellow fever, and there aren’t good ways to control this mosquito.
The Debug Project is still early. We've built a team of mosquito biologists, software engineers and automation experts who are all passionate about solving the problem of mosquito borne diseases. We have promising prototypes of our automated rearing, sex separation, and release systems along with new designs for sensors and traps to measure mosquito populations.
We’re announcing Debug today because we’ll soon be ready to try these outside of our lab. We want to engage with local communities and government regulators to find the right places for field trials and ensure those trials are safe and effective.
To keep up on our team’s efforts, you can follow this blog or learn more at
Linus Upson, VP of Engineering
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