- We identified the economic potential of the S.H.I.E.L.D. use cases for both malaria elimination and other industrial applications.
- We filed a preliminary patent claiming all identified use cases.
- We reached out to companies and discussed the potential of commercialization.
The S.H.I.E.L.D. combines multiple breakthrough technologies to a carefully assembled application with incredible potential to fight malaria. However, novel technologies require novel regulations, and application processes for new genetically modified organisms (GMOs) take long and are economically risky. To push the S.H.I.E.L.D. to the market, its economic potential has to exceed the risk of development and registration.
To evaluate whether the S.H.I.E.L.D. has market potential, we evaluated its use cases within and outside of malaria elimination. Before any income could be generated with our technology, significant investments would need to be made.
Malaria elimination as source of economic growth
In 2015, US$ 2.9 billion was invested in the combat against malaria worldwide1. Apart from the humanitarian cause, there is an economic incentive for countries with malaria burden. Malaria prevention is far cheaper than malaria treatment: People who do not need to pay for malaria treatment have a higher purchasing power2, and public healthcare systems that focus on malaria prevention instead of malaria treatment save billions of dollars annually3. If public budgets are not stressed by costs caused by malaria, money can be spent for other causes, like education and infrastructure, in turn improving local economy. From a different point of view, people that get infected by malaria are not only burden the states with direct medical costs but also indirectly. The illness prevents people from attending school or work and therefore has a permanent adverse effect on progress of education and economy. It is even suggested that infectious diseases are “trapping” developing countries into poverty. It is clear, that combating malaria will improve the economy in several ways.
As a result, every malaria prevention method that is cheaper than malaria treatment has an economic benefit for a society by which it is used. But to drive its market introduction, there needs to be a single organization willing to do the investment in the S.H.I.E.L.D. Therefore, the gross economic benefit is not a sufficient reason for a company with the necessary resources to take up and push the S.H.I.E.L.D. to market.
The incentive for a bold investment lies beyond malaria
Synthetic biology allows adaptations of similar constructs to many different environments and tasks. With the S.H.I.E.L.D., we invented a solution to a specific problem, but its principle has potential far beyond malaria.
The S.H.I.E.L.D. uses odor baits to attract Anopheles gambiae mosquitoes. The same principle can be applied to every other insect or arthropod for which attractive substances are known. This opens a whole world of opportunities and use cases for the S.H.I.E.L.D. that offer far more immediate economic potential than combating malaria. Especially in industrial agriculture, farm pest control is a mass market. In 1999, over US$ 10 billion were invested in insecticides with a strong upwards trend4. Mass application of insecticides has devastating ecological effects and breeds resistances5,6. In this context it is also imaginable to use the device as a repellent.
The S.H.I.E.L.D. as a semi-open system, has the benefit of offering various opportunities for applications. Besides the use as a malaria prevention, it can even be used to combat other vector-borne diseases such as Dengue fever.
Interest from the industry and application for a patent
Due to the S.H.I.E.L.Ds outstanding potential, it has gained a lot of interest from the industry. We discussed our trap with Bayer CropScience and are looking forward to future discussions. Therefore, we got into contact with Tutech, a company specialized in knowledge transfer, e.g. patent applications, and in cooperation with the University of Hamburg, and we decided to apply for a patent.
- ↑World Health Organisation. World malaria report 2017. (2017).
- ↑Bleakley, H. Malaria Eradication in the Americas: A Retrospective Analysis of Childhood Exposure. Am. Econ. J. Appl. Econ. 2, (2010).
- ↑World Health Organisation. World Malaria Report 2016. (World Health Organization, 2016).
- ↑Agrios, G. N. Plant pathology. (Elsevier Academic Press, 2005).
- ↑Aktar, M. W., Sengupta, D. & Chowdhury, A. Impact of pesticides use in agriculture: their benefits and hazards. Interdiscip. Toxicol. 2, 1–12 (2009).
- ↑Reid, M. C. & McKenzie, F. E. The contribution of agricultural insecticide use to increasing insecticide resistance in African malaria vectors. Malar. J. 15, 107 (2016).