A giant technology company will release up to 20 million bacteria-filled, buzzing mosquitoes this summer in Fresno, California.
That’s supposed to be a good thing.
The bug campaign, which starts Friday, is part of a plan by Alphabet Inc.’s Verily Life Sciences unit. Reared by machines, the male mosquitoes are infected with a bacteria that, while harmless to humans, creates nonhatching dead eggs when they mate with wild females — hopefully cutting the mosquito population and the transmission of the diseases they carry.
The swarm’s target is Aedes aegypti, a mosquito breed that carries viruses like zika, dengue, and chikungunya. They’re an invasive species in California’s Central Valley, first arriving in Fresno in 2013.
After becoming a standalone Alphabet division in 2015, Verily has grown rapidly, taking on numerous health technology projects, partnering with the drug industry and raising significant funds including $800 million from Singapore investment firm Temasek Holdings Ltd. While the mosquito project, called Debug, won’t generate revenue in the near-term, it’s a chance for Verily to show off its technical prowess in the health-care field.
“If we can show that this technique can work, I’m confident we can make it a sustainable business because the burden of these mosquitoes is enormous,” said Verily engineering chief Linus Upson, who helped create Google’s Chrome web browser and now leads Debug. full story