Oxford University spin-out Oxitec – a company developing new ways of controlling insects and pests – has been sold for $160 million to a US synthetic biology company. The US company, Intrexon Corporation, announced the agreement to acquire the spin-out company in a deal worth £9.2 million to the university.

Hadyn Parry, Chief Executive Officer of Oxitec said: “We are excited to be joining forces with Intrexon and see this partnership as key to developing sustainable solutions to some of the world’s most intractable health and agriculture problems and making them available on a global basis. We look forward to making a difference in people’s lives that much sooner as part of Intrexon.”

Oxitec – founded in 2002 – uses a genetic modification technique to design strains of insects which are incapable of reproducing effectively. These strains can be mass reared and then released into the wild, leading to reduction and even removal of that particular insect species. This technology can be applied for agricultural pest control and against disease-carrying insects.

“Oxitec’s technology demonstrates that engineered biology can solve some of mankind’s most difficult problems – many that have eluded solutions for a very long time – while exercising tremendous respect for the environment,” said Intrexon Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Randal Kirk.

The technology can also be used to control agricultural pests which damage crops. Oxitec has just received approval for open field trials in Brazil and the USA for two strains to control the Mediterranean fruit fly and the Diamondback moth.