Oxitec’s Friendly™ Cattle Tick Program secures $4.8 million funding to development Friendly™ solution to tackle invasive Asian blue tick, Rhipicephalus microplus.
Oxitec Ltd, a UK-based, US-owned biotechnology company, has launched the development of a targeted, biological Friendly™ solution for the world’s most devastating cattle pest, the Asian blue tick, or Rhipicephalus microplus. Oxitec is the leading developer of insect-based biological solutions to control pests that transmit disease, destroy crops, and harm livestock.
Oxitec’s team validated the key methods for the development of Friendly™ R. microplus in a feasibility project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and found that a biological approach may be an effective alternative to chemical pesticides for the management of this dangerous tick. Oxitec’s first solution to target a non-insect pest, FriendlyTM R microplus, has now been committed to a $4.8 million early development phase by the Foundation. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is enabling collaboration with Roslin Institute to build an urgently needed and robust sustainable tick management solution, the Friendly™ to support livestock farmers globally.
Kelly Matzen, Oxitec’s Chief Technology Officer, added “We’re looking forward to starting work on development of the world’s most sustainable tick management solution. I’m delighted that the results of our scientific feasibility program have demonstrated the promise of our Friendly™ platform, to deliver impact against the world’s most devastating tick pest of cattle”.
Launched in 2021, Oxitec’s cattle tick program has conducted in-depth assessments of tick biology and genetics, assessed methods for development of a Friendly™ tick solution, artificial production methods, cattle management practices in regions threatened by R. microplus, and modelled the impact of future implementation on target tick populations. The results of this rigorous feasibility phase demonstrated that a future Friendly™ cattle tick solution could deliver highly effective R. microplus population suppression and that it represents a highly promising biological future alternative to chemical pesticides. This ground-breaking program will be conducted in collaboration with leading experts at one of the world’s foremost livestock research organisations, the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The R. microplus tick blood-feeds on cattle, causing major losses in productivity and animal death by spreading deadly diseases such as babesiosis. Originally native to Asia, the invasive R. microplus is now widely distributed across Africa and Southern and Central America. R. microplus is widely regarded as the world’s most important arthropod pest of cattle, costing the livestock industry and farmers billions of dollars each year. In Brazil alone this tick costs an estimated $3.2 billion in losses and management costs. Management of R. microplus is highly reliant on chemical acaricides (pesticides), to which the tick is widely resistant.
Grey Frandsen, Oxitec’s CEO, commented, “This new program is a significant milestone for Oxitec, enabling us to start building our first Friendly™ product targeting a non-insect pest. The Rhipicephalus microplus tick is a dangerous pest of cattle that threatens livelihoods across the world, and it’s still spreading. More chemical pesticides aren’t the answer. We’re focused on stopping it in its tracks by translating Oxitec’s proven, biological technology platform into a Friendly™ solution that offers a new level of impact against this tick, without harming the environment.”