Gene Drive Position

Postdoc: Modeling Gene Drive and Evolution of Insecticide Resistance in Mosquitoes

We have funding from NIH for a project titled “Combining Aedes aegypti genomics and modeling to improve gene drive strategies and our understanding of insecticide resistance evolution”. Aedes aegypti is the primary vector of dengue, Zika, chikungunya, and urban yellow-fever. We are searching for a postdoc to work on the modeling aspects of the project.

The idea of using selfish genetic elements to drive specific transgenes into a mosquito population either to reduce its size or to render it unable to transmit a particular pathogen was proposed over 40 years ago. It is only recently, however, with the advent of CRISPR-based gene editing technology, that this approach has gained broad attention from researchers and the news media. The need for this new technology is in part due to evolution of mosquito resistance to insecticides.
The most straightforward approaches for building gene drives using CRISPR/Cas9 technologies are theoretically expected to result in spread of the gene drive to individuals in all populations that are connected by even minimal gene flow. These approaches are appropriate in some cases, but detailed mathematical models are needed to understand the dynamics of spread and the potential for resistance evolving to the gene drive mechanisms. Our group and others have proposed more complex approaches for developing gene drives that are spatially and/or temporally limited. Novel molecular approaches accompanied by modeling are needed for development of these limited gene drives.
We currently have a detailed spatial model that simulates the population dynamics and population genetics of Ae. aegypti in a city, Iquitos, in the Amazonian region of Peru. There are rich data sets on both mosquito dynamics and dengue epidemiology that have been collected in this city. One important characteristic of this mosquito is limited among house movement and strong population structure. A main goal of our NIH grant is to modify this model to explore how and to what extent population structure will impact insecticide resistance evolution and the performance of novel gene drive strategies.

Dhole S, Lloyd AL, Gould F. 2020. Gene drive dynamics in natural populations: the importance of density-dependence, space and sex. Annu. Rev. Ecol. Evol. Syst. 51:505–31

The postdoc in this position will lead efforts on modifying the detailed model and utilizing it to test hypotheses. The postdoc will have the option of also conceptualizing and developing general models to evaluate novel approaches for building spatially/temporally limited gene drives. Our project is strengthened by collaborations with a number of labs in the US and in Peru, and activity in the Genetic Engineering and Society Center at NC State that examines societal aspects of novel genetic technologies. The postdoc will interact with members of these other research groups. If desired, there will be an opportunity for some work in Peru and for mentoring undergraduate and graduate students. The appointment is for two-years with the potential to write new grants for extension beyond that period.

We are looking for a postdoc with a solid background in population biology and population genetics who has experience with modeling and who wants to do applied research. Experience with C++ or related languages is desirable. Ability to work independently and to communicate effectively as a member of a team is essential.

To apply: email a cover letter and CV to AND