Department of Entomology


Omar S. Akbarientomology_entomology

Assistant Professor of Entomology

Location: Boyce Hall 4484
Tel: (951) 827-5368


In December of 2008, Omar S. Akbari received his Ph.D. in Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of Nevada, Reno where he studied the role cis-regulatory modules play in cellular identity along the anterio-posterior axis in developing Drosophila melanogaster embryos.  In May of 2009, he joined the laboratory of professor Bruce A. Hay at the California Institute of Technology to pursue post-doctoral training in synthetic biology of disease vectors.


B.S./M.S., Biotechnology, 2005 University of Nevada, Reno

Ph.D., Cell and Molecular Biology, 2008 University of Nevada, Reno


NIAID Career Transition Award
American Mosquito Control Association Grass Roots Award

Research Area

Mosquitoes are perhaps the most dangerous animals in the world. They are the primary vectors for major human diseases such as yellow fever, malaria and dengue fever, which together infect hundreds of millions of humans worldwide, killing millions each year, with over 50% of the world’s population presently at risk (WHO). There are currently no vaccines for either dengue fever or malaria and mosquitoes are rapidly evolving resistance to commonly used pesticides and anti-malarial drugs. Therefore given the number of infections and deaths, current approaches for prevention of mosquito-borne diseases are immeasurably inefficient.  What remains critical for vector control is the development of catalytic approaches requiring only small efforts that can generate long lasting solutions. With the rapid advances in insect genetic engineering, mathematical modeling of wild populations, synthetic biology, and the comprehensive understanding of dengue and plasmodium lifecycles in mosquitoes, unique opportunities have arisen to prevent infectious diseases through genetic manipulation of wild insect vector populations. My research focuses on studying the basic genetics and physiology of mosquitoes with the overall goal of developing innovative, novel, creative, synthetic biology inspired genetic control technologies for reducing the burden of mosquito vector borne diseases on humans. The underlying hypothesis inspiring this work is that the introduction and spread of genes that prevent mosquitoes to transmit pathogens should in theory lead to reduced transmission of these pathogens resulting in reductions of human infections and/or death. To test this hypothesis, first we need a broad understanding of the biology of the mosquito that can be used to develop gene-based strategies for engineering mosquitoes that are resistant to pathogens; second we need to engineer mosquitoes that are resistant to all types of infections; third we need to develop tools to rapidly “drive” these laboratory developed genes into wild mosquito populations. Together, these aims can conceivably provide a foundation that has the potential to revolutionize vector control of mosquitoes.


Selected Publications

Akbari, O.S., Papathanos, P., Kennedy, K., Sandler, J., and Hay, B.A. Identification of germline transcriptional regulatory elements in Aedes aegypti. Scientific Reports, 2014. DOI: 10.1038/srep03954.

Akbari, O.S.*, Antosheckin, I., Hay, B.A, Ferree, P.M. Transcriptome profiling of the Nasonia Vitripennis testis reveals novel transcripts expressed from the selfish B. Chromosome, Paternal Sex Ratio. G3, 2013. DOI:pii: g3.113.007583v1. *Corresponding Author.

Akbari, O.S., Antoshechkin, I., Amrhein, H., Williams, B., Sandler, J.,Diloreto, R., Buchman. A., and Hay, B.A. The Complete Developmental Transcriptome of the Mosquito Aedes aegypti, an invasive species and disease vector. G3, 2013. G3 DOI:pii: g3.113.006742v1. 

*Development of an online resource: www.vector.caltech.edu

Akbari, O.S., Matzen, K., Marshall, J.M, Huang,H., and Hay, B.AA Synthetic gene-drive system for local, reversible modification and suppression of insect populations. Current Biology, 2013. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.02.059.

Akbari, O.S., Marshall, J., Chen, CH., Huang, H., Antosheckin, I., and Hay, B.A. Novel Synthetic Medea selfish genetic elements drive population replacement in Drosophila, and a theoretical exploration of Medea-dependent population suppression. ACS Synthetic Biology, 2012. DOI: 10.1021/sb300079h.

Ho, M.C., Schiller, B.J., Akbari, O.S., Bae, E., and Drewell, R.A. Disruption of the abdominal-B promoter tethering element results in a loss of long-range enhancer-directed Hox gene expression in Drosophila. PLoS One, 2011. 6, e16283. PMC3025016.

Oliver, D., Sheehan, B., South, H., Akbari, O.S., and Pai, C.Y. The chromosomal association/dissociation of the chromatin insulator protein Cp190 of Drosophila melanogaster is mediated by the BTB/POZ domain and two acidic regions. BMC Cell Biol 11, 2010. 101. PMC3022720.

Akbari, O.S., Oliver, D., Eyer, K., and Pai, C.Y. An Entry/Gateway cloning system for general expression of genes with molecular tags in Drosophila melanogaster. BMC Cell Biol, 2009. 10, 8. PMC2654426.

Akbari, O.S., Bae, E., Johnsen, H., Villaluz, A., Wong, D., and Drewell, R.A. A novel promoter-tethering element regulates enhancer-driven gene expression at the bithorax complex in the Drosophila embryo. Development, 2008. 135, 123-131. PMC2205987, NIHMS37020.

Akbari, O.S., Schiller, B.J., Goetz, S.E., Ho, M.C., Bae, E., and Drewell, R.A. The abdominal-B promoter tethering element mediates promoter-enhancer specificity at the Drosophila bithorax complex. Fly (Austin), 2007. 1, 337-339. PMC2394718, NIHMS41586.

Akbari, O.S., Bousum, A., Bae, E., and Drewell, R.A. Unraveling cis-regulatory mechanisms at the abdominal-A and Abdominal-B genes in the Drosophila bithorax complex. Developmental Biology, 2006. 293, 294-304. PMC16545794.



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