I am a molecular biologist working on novel strategies to control the mosquito vector of malaria. I am currently based at John's Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, USA, but also spend time at Imperial College London and Oxford University in the UK. My research includes the development of new genetic technologies such as CRISPR, optogenetics and gene drive to understand and target mosquito reproduction and biting behaviour. Alongside laboratory research, I am an active voice in the public discourse surrounding the use of the GM and gene drive technologies - advocating for the responsible development of novel technologies for disease control.
Gene drives have incredible potential to modify entire populations of the malaria mosquito for sustainable vector control. During my PhD (2012-2016) and post-doc (2016-2018) in the Crisanti lab, I worked under the supervision of Dr Tony Nolan and Professor Andrea Crisanti to develop the first gene drive system designed to spread through natural populations of the African malaria mosquito. Since this first demonstration, we have uncovered key weaknesses and worked to improve it, leading to our most recent study showing an extremely effective gene drive that is now being tested on a far larger scale.
I have recently been awarded the Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellowship to lead a new cross-boarder collaborative project aimed at understanding the neurogenetics underlying mosquito host-seeking behaviour. This research is co-sponsored by Dr Tony Southall (Imperial College), Dr Conor McMeniman (John’s Hopkins University) and Professor Stephen Goodwin (Oxford University). In this Wellcome funded project, we aim to develop new tools for optogenetics in the malaria mosquito that will allow us to visualise and functionally characterise the neurons and genes that are needed by mosquitoes to hunt down humans.
This mosquito larva (head and thorax) is glowing red because it has been genetically modified to expression the red fluorescent protein in neurons of the eyes and brain.
Should we engineer mosquito DNA to save human lives? (My interview with BBC Tomorrow's World)
Giving Malaria a Deadline (The New York Times)
Mosquitoes ‘tricked into extinction’ (The Times)
outreach and Teaching
I'm always on the lookout for interested students (school research experience, undergraduate, UROP, masters, PhD). For students already at Imperial, look out for my projects listed for undergraduate biology, biochemistry and the MRes in Molecular and Cellular Biosciences.
Since 2015, I have been involved in efforts to discuss genetics, the ethics of genome engineering, and gene drive technology to students and the general public. I've given talks at several schools in the UK and abroad, and in 2017 I helped develop teaching tools for the Danish School system that included a lecture and ethics debate that were broadcast live across schools in the country.
et al., 2018, A CRISPR-Cas9 gene drive targeting doublesex causes complete population suppression in caged Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes, Nature Biotechnology, Vol:36, ISSN:1087-0156, Pages:1062-1066
Hammond AM, Galizi R, 2018, Gene drives to fight malaria: current state and future directions, Pathogens and Global Health, Vol:111, ISSN:2047-7724, Pages:412-423
et al., 2017, The creation and selection of mutations resistant to a gene drive over multiple generations in the malaria mosquito., PLOS Genetics, Vol:13, ISSN:1553-7390
et al., 2017, Requirements for Driving Antipathogen Effector Genes into Populations of Disease Vectors by Homing, Genetics, Vol:205, Pages:1587-1596
et al., 2016, A CRISPR-Cas9 sex-ratio distortion system for genetic control., Scientific Reports, Vol:6, ISSN:2045-2322
et al., 2016, A CRISPR-Cas9 gene drive system-targeting female reproduction in the malaria mosquito vector Anopheles gambiae, Nature Biotechnology, Vol:34, ISSN:1087-0156, Pages:78-83