Google has consulted with geneticists on mosquito project; next Alphabet moonshot?

Alphabet may soon take a crack at deploying genetically modified mosquitoes to fight disease. That’s an interest of Linus Upson, a Google engineering VP who co-created the Chrome browser but left that team last October.
The Information reported yesterday that Upson has voiced this interest internally. But, the publication noted, it is unclear if Google has hired any scientists for the endeavor. It has talked to one, Re/code has learned. George Church, a leading geneticist and molecular engineer at Harvard University, said he has had discussions with both Upson and Alphabet chief Larry Page about his research that uses CRISPR, a powerful gene-editing technique.
Some companies are relying on similar genetic editing with mosquitoes for profit, such as a pesticide alternative. Church said that Page and Upson have primarily expressed interest in the technology’s ability to combat diseases like malaria and dengue fever. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has funded this type of research. “We’re not anticipating it will be a commercial success,” Church said. “It might be easier to go the philanthropic route through the Gates Foundation or Google.”
The scale of the health issue is massive, suiting Alphabet’s aim: Around 3.2 billion people are at risk of malaria, which caused an estimated half a million deaths in 2013, according to the World Health Organization. An estimated 390 million people are infected with dengue fever yearly.