Tags: Clone | Pioneers | Shift | Research | Goals

Clone Pioneers Shift Research Goals

Wednesday, 26 September 2001 12:00 AM

Dr. Harry Griffin of the Roslin Institute said that biomedical research may yield more scientific and financial benefits than pure agricultural study.

The institute became famous in 1997 when it announced the birth of Dolly, a cloned sheep. The first successful cloning of a mammal touched off a worldwide debate about the science and ethics of cloning.

The financial and consumer benefits of cloning animals still aren't clear, but scientists surmise the technology could have practical applications in both the medical and agricultural fields.

However, scientists at Roslin are now focusing on ways animals could benefit medical research rather than producing genetically modified animals specifically for human consumption.

"It would take a strong-stomached marketing manager to take on the task of selling GM livestock, especially within the European Union," Griffin said by phone from the institute based in Edinburgh, Scotland. "With such animals, there are problems with public perception. Consumers are not able to identify clear benefits that GM products would give them, thus there's a lack of demand."

He explained that the technical limits of genetic modification has also played a part in the shift of the institute's research goals. Agricultural research at the institute comprises only 20 percent of its work today, compared with 70 percent in the early 90s.

"It's not easy to identify a single gene in an animal that, if altered, will drastically increase product yields," Griffin said. More benefits to farmers can come from relatively low-tech breeding than from genetic modification, he added.

The institute will not completely shut down its agricultural research, and much of its medical research will continue to be with animals - for instance, genetically modifying chickens to lay eggs containing human antibodies, which can then be used to make useful drugs.

The company is also looking into the possibilities of GM mice for use in drug testing and stem cell research.

"We have been encouraged by the fact that in the past 10 to 15 years there have been opportunities for sophisticated approaches in agriculture-related biomedicine," Griffin said. "So we now have several different directions and we are not restricted to pure agriculture."

Griffin said the institute's medical activities are more attractive to private investors than its agricultural branch.

Roslin began as part of a post-war U.K. government project to increase agriculture production. Gene research began in the early 80s and technologies developed at the institute have since spawned several spin-off companies.

Roslin is now one of the world's leading centers for genetic research on animals.

Copyright 2001

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Dr. Harry Griffin of the Roslin Institute said that biomedical research may yield more scientific and financial benefits than pure agricultural study. The institute became famous in 1997 when it announced the birth of Dolly, a cloned sheep. The first successful cloning of...
Clone,Pioneers,Shift,Research,Goals
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2001-00-26
Wednesday, 26 September 2001 12:00 AM
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