My major research focus is on the use of modern genetic methods to improve the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT). I proposed a major modification to SIT called RIDL® (Thomas et al., 2000 Science). We are developing both the theory and the molecular biology and genetics of this approach, first in Drosophila and latterly in pest insects. We work on Medfly and Mexfly – two major agricultural pest insects and targets of large-scale SIT programs in the US and elsewhere – the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti and pink bollworm, a Lepidopteran (moth) pest of cotton. A critical concern is the fitness cost to the insect imposed by the RIDL system.
Another area of interest in genetic control is the "refractory insect" strategy, which is based on (i) the production in the laboratory of a strain of insects refractory to transmission of a disease agent (e.g. malaria or dengue fever) and (ii) the introgression of this refractory gene into the wild population, so that the disease-transmitting insect population is rendered harmless. I have devised new approaches to the introgression problem; we are currently modelling these to explore their advantages and disadvantages, and are also trying to construct the required genetic systems.
I established a spin-out company, Oxitec Ltd. Member of WHO Scientific Working Group on Dengue 2006-; Member of NAPPO Expert Working Group on RSPM 27 (“Importation and Confined Release of Transgenic Arthropods in NAPPO Member Countries”), 2006-
- Fu, G., Condon, K.C., Epton, M.J., Gong, P., Jin, L., Condon, G.C., Morrison, N.I., Dafa’alla, T.H. and Alphey, L. (2007). Engineering female-specific lethality in insects using alternative splicing. Nature Biotechnology, 25: 353-357
- Phuc, H.K., Andreasen, M.H., Vass, C., Epton, M.J., Donnelly, C.A., Coleman, P.G., White-Cooper, H. and Alphey, L. (2007). A dominant lethal genetic system for mosquito control. BMC Biology 5: 11
- Atkinson, M.P., Su, Z., Alphey, N., Alphey, L.S., Coleman, P.G. and Wein, L.M. (2007). Analyzing the control of mosquito-borne diseases by a dominant lethal genetic system. Proc. Nat’l Acad. Sci. (USA). 104: 9540-9545
- Kirchner, J., Gross, S., Bennett, D. and Alphey, L. (2007). The non-muscle myosin phosphatase PP1ß (flapwing) negatively regulates JNK in wing imaginal discs of Drosophila. Genetics 175: 1741-1749
- Kirchner, J., Gross, S., Bennett, D. and Alphey, L. (2007). Essential, overlapping and redundant roles of the Drosophila protein phosphatase 1a and 1 ß genes. Genetics 176: 273-281.