Riverside-based OlFactor Laboratories Inc. plans to begin experiments on thousands of mosquitoes later this month as the company tests the effectiveness of environmentally friendly odors in controlling mosquitoes that spread diseases.
RIVERSIDE, CALIF. – OlFactor Laboratories Inc. is about to open California’s newest research laboratory, which will enable the company to begin extensive testing of its new mosquito control technologies.
“We are very excited about the opening of our new laboratory because the testing that we conduct there will lay the foundation for the commercialization of new mosquito control technologies that could help control the spread of West Nile Virus, Dengue Fever, Malaria, and other mosquito-borne diseases in the U.S. and around the world,” said Steve Abbott, president of Riverside-based OlFactor Laboratories, a majority owned subsidiary of Avisio Inc.
OlFactor Laboratories recently licensed the use of several categories of environmentally friendly chemicals from the University of California, Riverside (UCR) after university researchers discovered their potential in both luring and disrupting the ability of mosquitoes to find human beings.
“Over millions of years mosquitoes have evolved to detect carbon dioxide to find animals to feed on. But by using a blend of odors that blocks the mosquitoes’ CO2 receptors, we can mask areas of our choosing from a mosquito’s perception,” said Dr. Anand Ray, chief scientific advisor to OlFactor Laboratories and principal researcher at UCR whose discovery lead to the patent application.
Abbott said one mixture of chemicals discovered by UCR researchers mimics CO2 in exhaled human air, which mosquitoes use to navigate toward humans. But while CO2 has long been known as the primary attractant for mosquitoes, current methods of producing CO2 to lure mosquitoes into traps involve burning propane or obtaining large amounts of dry ice and allowing it to evaporate. Both methods are costly and cumbersome, so the use of the company’s blend of odors as attractants could be more efficient and cost-effective.
Another mixture of chemicals covered by the same UCR patent application seems to confuse mosquitoes to the point where their ability to detect and navigate toward CO2 , which is in exhaled human air, is severely compromised.
Abbott said the low toxicity attributes of these chemicals will also be important because most commonly used mosquito control methods use toxic insecticides. Moreover, insects also have been known to develop resistance against such insecticides over time. These environmentally friendly odors could, therefore, provide a lasting means of controlling mosquitoes and the spread of infectious diseases, he said.
Olfactory Laboratories recently hosted an open house at its new research laboratory in San Bernardino, during which time the company discussed its innovations in mosquito control technology with investors, government officials, representatives from UCR and California State University, San Bernardino, as well as representatives from state and local health and vector control agencies.
“Part of what we’re trying to do,” Abbott said, “is showcase the fact that we can take an idea and build a business around it and get it going. We’re also trying to hammer home the fact that research in Inland Southern California can be used to combat Malaria, Dengue Fever, West Nile Virus and other tropical diseases around the world.”