Tulane gets grant for new mosquito diet

Tulane University has been awarded a $100,000 grant to develop an artificial mosquito diet so female insects in research colonies don’t have to feast on human or animal blood to reproduce.

Dawn Wesson, associate professor of tropical medicine at Tulane’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, said the artificial diet will help researchers studying diseases such as malaria, West Nile or dengue fever.

The fake blood can be used to grow or maintain adult mosquito colonies where fresh blood isn’t available, allowing scientists to breed large numbers of mosquitoes for research purposes, she said.

“Adult females need blood to produce eggs,” Wesson said. “It’s a really good source of protein for egg production. So the key is finding some type of protein that will still result in viable egg production, but that is also appetizing to mosquitoes. The other key is to make it inexpensive, not reliant on refrigeration and shelf-stable for months to years.”

The grant comes from the Grand Challenges Explorations fund, a $100 million initiative by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help solve persistent global health and development challenges. Launched in 2008, it has supported more than 1,160 projects in more than 60 countries. Initial grants of $100,000 are awarded twice a year, and successful projects can receive a secondary grant of up to $1 million.

TV producer to speak at UNO graduation

Joseph Zolfo, the producer of the hit TV crime drama “NCIS: New Orleans,” will be the principal speaker at the University of New Orleans’ fall graduation ceremony Dec. 18 in the Lakefront Arena.

The New York City native has worked in the television and film industries for more than two decades with some of Hollywood’s most esteemed directors and actors. Now a New Orleans resident, he produces the popular CBS series, which shoots at UNO’s Nims Center Studios in Elmwood.

When the show debuted in 2014, it was the top-rated new series on TV in total audience.

Zolfo began his film career on the set of Woody Allen’s “Husband and Wives.” He also worked for directors Sydney Pollack, Mike Nichols and Nora Ephron.

As a producer, his early work included “Marie and Bruce,” starring Julianne Moore and Matthew Broderick, and “The Girl in the Park,” starring Sigourney Weaver and Kate Bosworth.

He worked alongside Boaz Yakin to produce the Sundance film “Death in Love,” with Josh Lucas and Jacqueline Bissett, and the thriller “Safe,” starring Jason Statham. His next feature was the action film “Dead Man Down,” starring Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace and Terrence Howard.

For HBO, he teamed up with Ian Edelman for the series “How to Make it in America.”