A PIONEERING firm behind breeding mosquitoes to curb disease has been given a multi-million-pound boost by investors.

Oxitec, based at Milton Park, will receive £5.9m from Oxford University and US finance firm East Hill Management, which are existing investors, as well as international private investors from South America, Europe and Asia.

It follows the first approval of Oxitec’s groundbreaking technology for the control of dengue mosquitoes, which was granted in April by the Brazilian National Technical Commission for Biosecurity (CTNBio).

Oxitec is commercialising research by Dr Luke Alphey at Oxford University, who developed a way of injecting mosquitoes with a chemical so their offspring die before they can mature.

Trials in Brazil, Malaysia and Grand Cayman have shown its effectiveness in combating dengue fever, known as ‘breakbone’, which infects more than 50 million people in tropical countries and kills more than 25,000 each year.

Bosses will use the cash to build a commercial facility in Brazil, as well as continuing to develop in other areas where the disease is prevalent.

Chief executive Hadyn Parry said: “This new investment marks a strategic milestone for Oxitec as we begin the process of commercialising our approach to controlling dengue mosquitoes following our first approval in Brazil.”

Edward Mott, managing partner of Cumnor Hill-based Oxford Capital which led the funding round, said: “The incidence of dengue fever is growing all the time and it is now threatening populations across Central and Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa and the Pacific Rim.

“Oxitec has made a huge step forward in securing approval for its dengue control technology in Brazil and is now poised for a full-scale commercial roll-out. With the huge and growing global demand for dengue control, we believe the future is very bright for the business.”

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