Professor Luke Alphey

Research Interests

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 primarily on the mosquito Aedes aegypti and diamondback moth. Aedes aegypti is the major vector of important viral pathogens including dengue, yellow fever and Zika viruses. 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.


Additional Information

Selected as Technology Pioneer 2008 by the World Economic Forum. Runner-up BBSRC Innovator of the Year 2009. Social Innovator winner and Overall Winner, BBSRC Innovator of the Year 2014. Winner, Entomological Society of America award for Creativity and Innovation in Entomology (Nan-Yao Su Award) 2014. Finalist European Inventor Award 2015 of European Patent Office.

Selected Publications

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

Fu, G., Lees, R.S., Nimmo, D., Aw, D., Jin, L., Gray, P., Berendonk, T.U., White-Cooper, H., Scaife, S., Phuc, H.K., Marinotti, O., Jasinskiene, N., James, A.A. and Alphey, L. (2010) A female-specific flightless phenotype for mosquito control. Proc. Nat Acad. Sci. (USA) 107 (10):4550-4554

Wise de Valdez, M.R., Nimmo, D., Betz, J., Gong, H., James, A.A., Alphey, L.*, and Black, W.C., IV (2011). Genetic elimination of dengue vector mosquitoes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 108:4772-4775

Harris, A.F., Nimmo, D., McKemey, A.R., Kelly, N., Scaife, S., Beech, C., Donnelly, C.A., Petrie, W., and Alphey, L. (2011). Field performance of engineered male mosquitoes. Nature Biotech., 29:1034-1037

Harris, A.F., McKemey, A.R., Nimmo, D., Curtis, Z., Black, I., Morgan, S.A., Neira Oviedo, M., Lacroix, R., Naish, N., Morrison, N., Amandine C., Stevenson, J., Scaife, S., Dafa’alla, T., Fu, G., Phillips, C., Miles, A., Raduan, N., Kelly, N., Beech, C., Donnelly, C.A., Petrie, W.D., and Alphey, L. (2012) Successful suppression of a field mosquito population by release of engineered male mosquitoes. Nature Biotech., 30:828-830

Tan, A., Fu, G., Li, J., Guo, Q., Li, Z., Niu, B., Meng, Z., Morrison, N., Alphey, L.*, and Huang, Y. (2013). A transgene-based, female-specific lethality system for genetic sexing of the beneficial insect, Bombyx mori. PNAS 110:6766-6770

Alphey, L. (2014). Genetic control of mosquitoes. Annual Review of Entomology 59: 205-224