PIRACICABA, Brazil, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Intrexon Corp's launch on Wednesday of a laboratory in Brazil capable of producing 60 million genetically-modified mosquitoes a week could help protect up to 3 million locals from mosquito-borne diseases like Zika and dengue, the company said.
The 5,000-square metre facility in Sao Paulo state, designed by Intrexon subsidiary Oxitec, will create Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that have been genetically altered so their offspring die before they can reproduce.
Oxitec will utilize a portion of the new facility's production capacity to support an ongoing program in Piracicaba to suppress Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that carries the Zika virus.
Zika, which has no known cure, has been linked to the birth defect microcephaly, characterised by an abnormally small head. Since it was detected for the first time in the Americas in Brazil last year, Zika has swept through South and Central America, the Caribbean and made its way north to the United States.
Oxitec said that ongoing trials in Brazil, Panama and the Cayman Islands have shown that its genetically-modified mosquitoes - dubbed Friendly Aedes - can reduce localized Aedes aegypti populations by more than 90 percent.
"We want to make our Friendly Aedes available to the maximum number of countries possible," Oxitec Chief Executive Officer Hadyn Parry said at the inauguration of the plant.
Oxitec's director in Brazil, Glen Slade, said the new facility took only five months to create and could quickly be reproduced elsewhere. He said the laboratory would increase Oxitec's production capacity 30-fold in the South American country.
Reporting by Paulo Whitaker; Editing by Bernard Orr