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Skin Microbiome-based Mosquito Repellent

Group awarded $15 million DARPA contract to develop live biotherapeutic product.

By: Happi Staff

Skin Microbiome-based Mosquito Repellent

Ginkgo Bioworks, medical dermatological company Azitra, Inc., Florida International University (FIU), and Latham BioPharm Group have been awarded a contract by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for up to $15 million,  as part of its ReVector program. This program aims to maintain the health of military personnel operating in regions highly affected by mosquito-borne diseases. The team plans to create a new type of mosquito repellent based on the skin microbiome. 
The combined team plans to harness the skin microbiome to create a Live Biotherapeutic Product (LBP) that can block human chemical signals that attract mosquitoes while also repelling the insects. 
Mosquito-borne diseases, such as malaria and Zika virus, account for over a million deaths worldwide. The program aims to protect military personnel operating in regions highly affected by mosquito-borne diseases. 
Research shows  that certain microbial species within the human skin microbiome produce volatile odor-based chemical signals that attract mosquitoes. 
The group plans to study how mosquitoes sense humans by skin-associated volatile compounds and aim to engineer and develop a bacterial-based LBP. The goal is to create a safe product that can be easily applied to the skin and provide protection against mosquito bites for up to two weeks without reapplication.
To support this project, Azitra, founded in 2014 by scientists from Yale University, will leverage its knowledge of the skin microbiome to develop and characterize various bacterial strains.   Ginkgo Bioworks, based in Boston, will contribute its foundries and expertise in bioengineering to provide strain engineering. In the initial research phase of the project, the companies will collaborate with top mosquito researcher and neurogeneticist Matthew DeGennaro, Ph.D., of FIU's Biomolecular Sciences Institute, who brings expertise in molecular genetics and odor attraction profile of mosquitoes as well as mosquito repellents.  Latham will provide program management, systems integration support and technical product development support. 

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