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Monday, 5 November, 2001, 17:04 GMT
Cloning doctor to make UK bid
Graphic, BBC
The Italian doctor who wants to clone humans will not be allowed to work in the UK and could be sent to prison if he attempts to conduct his experiments in the country, officials said on Monday.

If they say no I would like to know why. I want them to try to justify why not

Prof Severino Antinori
Professor Severino Antinori, together with his American collaborator Dr Panos Zavos, wants to help childless couples start a family using the cloning technology that gave the world Dolly the sheep.

Professor Antinori told a Sunday newspaper that his team would approach the UK's regulator on infertility matters for permission to provide the cloning "treatment" in Britain - to force the regulator into a debate.

But Dr Ruth Deech, chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), said the Italian medic was wasting his time, and any application he made was highly unlikely to be successful.

She told the BBC: "The intention in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act of 1990 is clearly to ban human cloning. We have said our policy is to ban it; Parliament has said that; the public are against it.

"I don't know why he is applying here. Perhaps it is some publicity stunt."

Since Antinori and Zavos announced their intentions to the world, they have been ostracised by much of the international medical community. Many fertility and cloning experts - including the team that created Dolly - have warned of the dangers of applying an underdeveloped technique to humans.

Nine monkey clones

Experience with animals has shown that most clone pregnancies fail, or result in the offspring being delivered stillborn or deformed. But Antinori and Zavos believe the dangers have been overstated and claim to have the ability to screen out unsustainable pregnancies.

Professor Antinori told the Sunday Herald in Glasgow that his application to the HFEA would open up a debate on cloning.

"If they say no I would like to know why. I want them to try to justify why not. If there is a scientific reason I will understand. If they refuse for religious reasons, I will not."

If the UK bid was turned down, Professor Antinori said human cloning would be carried out elsewhere, either in Asia or in a secret Mediterranean country. He claimed his team had already produced nine monkey clones but gave no details of the unpublished research.

The Royal Society of Edinburgh barred Antinori from participating in a scientific debate on cloning on Monday.

Professor Antinori made international headlines in 1994 when he helped a woman of 62 have a baby. He and Zavos announced last month that the first human clone could be created before the end of the year.

Dr Ruth Deech, HFEA
"Perhaps it is some publicity stunt"
See also:

25 Oct 01 | Sci/Tech
Clone pregnancy 'this year'
08 Aug 01 | Sci/Tech
Q&A: Human cloning
06 Jul 01 | Sci/Tech
Warning over dangers of cloning
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