500 million people affected by disease-transmitting mosquitos
Diseases such as malaria, dengue, chikungunya and Zika are transferred to humans through bites from infected mosquitoes. More than 500 million people in Africa, Americas and Asia are estimated to annually being infected by disease-transmitting mosquitos, resulting in millions of deaths.
Worst affected are young children, pregnant women, people living with HIV, and people affected by humanitarian emergencies and natural disasters. Climate change, globalization and other drivers have also put people in other regions, including Europe, at an increased risk for emerging infectious diseases.
Unselective insecticides harm humans and pollinators
Vector control by insecticides is the predominant and most important way to prevent transmission of mosquito-borne diseases. While the widespread use of insecticides has had beneficial effects in terms of disease control, the currently used insecticides are unselective and have harmful effects on non-target organisms including humans and pollinators.
Moreover, the heavy usage has promoted the development and spread of insecticide-resistance. New insecticides based on new active substances are therefore urgently needed, since the alarming reports on insecticide-resistance and insecticide-toxicity, threaten the usage of current insecticides.
A new target for insecticides offer selective anti-mosquito effect
Our business idea is to develop potent and selective inhibitors that target acetylcholinesterase 1 (an essential enzyme that terminate cholinergic nerve signaling) of disease-transmitting mosquitoes. These inhibitors will be used as new active substances in insecticides, and in contrast to the currently used insecticides they are designed to specifically target mosquitoes, without affecting other organisms, including humans and pollinators.
Our new active substance is foremost intended for textile products used for protection against adult mosquitoes. Potential products are bed nets, blankets, curtains, or clothes. We also intend to use the active ingredients in spin-off products aimed for travelers from high-income countries.
Our goal is a vector control product that offers:
• safe protection against mosquito-borne diseases
• a broader scope of usage than the currently used insecticides
• a protection against insecticidal-resistant mosquito strains
Great advantages for environment, biodiversity and human health
Insecticides for vector control rely on four chemical classes: chlorinated hydrocarbons, pyrethroids, organophosphates and carbamates. The chlorinated hydrocarbons are harmful for the environment, heavy usage of pyrethroids are causing resistance in mosquitoes, and the latter two are toxic to non-target organisms and are also causing resistance in mosquitoes.
Vector control relies on long lasting insecticidal bed nets and indoor residual spraying where walls and ceilings are sprayed with insecticides. We have identified several compounds with the ability to inhibit the essential enzyme AChE1 in mosquitos. Based on their potency against the mosquito enzyme and their selectivity over the human counterpart, we have selected one compound class as the “top priority” that is now being further evaluated.