Define the problem you are seeking to solve

We aim to reduce the population of biting mosquitoes in a specific area

Describe your big idea (what is the vision?)

We aim to design a new type of trap that focuses on the three mechanisms of host detection in biting mosquitoes.

Describe and illustrate (if possible) your proposed solution

Our proposal is to design a trap that incorporates low level impact on the fauna and flora of the targeted environment. We will design a bespoke, low visual impact trap that houses a biologically specific three-pronged attractant system with an arthropod incapacitation method.

What is the core foundation of your research or solution (this could be technology, research, know-how etc)?

Members of our team have expertise in synthetic biology, design, marketing, experimental design and industrial design, all with the high levels of research expertise. We have consulted with external mosquito academics and are maintaining ongoing collaboration with arthropod infection model experts. Mr Gibbs and Dr Hassan are affiliates of the ARC Centre for Excellence in Synthetic Biology, with a strong background in biological systems design. Dr Matthews has emerged from a career in Media and Marketing startups to pursue an academic career and is a member of the School of Creative Industries Future Arts, Science and Technology lab (FASTlab). Mr Miller is an expert in assay design and experimental methodologies, especially in physical containment and metabolic pathway rationalisation.

Describe who you think your end-user and/or paying customer could be

This system relies on an area knockdown approach and as such needs to be implemented as part of a strategy, designed to service end-users that govern geographically specific human-use spaces. The resultant prototype could form the basis of a product generating revenue streams and ongoing sales, from future target customers in organisations such as educational institutions, local government and controllers of recently released land developments.

Describe your Technology Readiness Level or Research Literature Level

There has been an extensive literature review as well as consultation with outside experts. As soon as funding is available, we will begin the metabolic pathway construction and organism design as well as trap prototype construction.

Describe the top three critical hypothesis you want to explore, including:

  1. We hypothesise that combining three methods used by mosquitoes to locate their prey, CO2, heat, and small molecule acids and bases, will increase specific mosquito attractant over previous trapping techniques

  2. We hypothesise that by attracting only the biting females we can reduce the impact of off target insect knockdown.

  3. We hypothesis that our novel synthetic chitinase overproduction organism will also produce the CO2 & small molecule acids & bases required for attraction.

How you will test them?

Through a capture mechanism with an adhesive surface placed on a device with the attractant and a control with no attractant – a simple count of individuals on each will show relative efficacy. A user experience test will be incorporated into the supporting light poles to elevate engagement, and allowing passing foot traffic to scan a QR code and complete a short survey with questions around the level of biting mosquito presence and visibility of the device.

Describe your experimental plan, including any new technologies or tools to be developed

The delivery device will be designed and built using a 3D printing process, incorporating a small photovoltaic generation device to fuel the heating mechanism, and a removable tray to house the attractant. A poster system will also be designed incorporating the branding and interactive web-based explanatory animated media and survey content.

If your experiment/s in the testing phase are successful what are the next steps?

Seek further Funding to refine and expand deployment of the working prototype. Eventually, the goal is to achieve a design that can form the basis of a marketable product able to be manufactured at scale.

How will the work described be performed within the budget (up to AU$5,000) and time period (5 months) allocated for the testing phase (resources, capability etc)?

Synthetic biology methodology will be employed to design an organism that will secrete the attractants as well as chitinase.

What essential outcomes will you generate during your testing phase?

Each metabolic pathway will need to be separately defined, then combined within one organism or a synthetic microbial community. These goals are aligned with the upcoming Centre of Excellence in Synthetic Biology. A prototype of the attractant delivery device will also be produced and refined based on field and user testing.

include a brief breakdown of allowable costs

Synthetic gene construction will be undertaken to a value of $2500. Construction of an interactive website and hosting will cost $1000. Construction of the prototype will cost of $1500.

What you’ve done to date, including challenges and wins

To date we have won the Idea Spark Competition 2020 with the early outline to the Project MKO concept. We have established networks with expert supporting researchers, research organs and entities along with a brand and web presence via a Medium publication.

Why your idea is an unconventional or creative approach to the problem

Our idea is unconventional and creative in that it employs a simple, testable strategy, based on known behavioural traits. It incorporates a novel arrangement of reliable and sustainable biotechnology methods, reusable 3D printing and solar generation tools, alongside interactive mobile media technology will generate engagement and provide rich data.

Contact Details

https://www.newcastle.edu.au/profile/evan-gibbs

https://www.newcastle.edu.au/profile/ben-matthews

https://www.newcastle.edu.au/profile/karl-hassan

https://www.newcastle.edu.au/profile/jack-mcgrath

https://www.newcastle.edu.au/profile/michael-miller

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