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Thursday, 24 January, 2002, 16:09 GMT
Commercial cloning hits China
Clone, RAB
Alpha and Beta: The Asian market is first
Two Australian calves that are genetic clones of their sire are about to be sold into China for about US$200,000 each. The company behind the sale says it will be the world's first commercial sale of dairy bull clones.

The two four-and-a-half-month-old animals are called Alpha and Beta. They are carbon copies of Australia's top Holstein sire, Donor, whose sperm has already earned the company that owns it millions of Australian dollars.

Cloning Donor will enable the firm, RAB Australia, based in Albury, New South Wales, to increase the bull's earning potential. If cells from the animal are stored, it may even be possible for Donor to produce an income for RAB long after it is dead.

The ability to maintain and spread important genetic lines - which might favour high yields or disease resistance, for example - in livestock is one of the main reasons why biotechnologists are pursuing animal cloning.

Asian market

It would also make "pharming" - the production of drug compounds in animal milk - far more practical.

"What we're doing is providing access to the genetics of [Donor] at quite a discount price," said Warwick Ashby, the company's chief executive.

Donor: A prize bull, RAB
The calves have been produced in a joint venture with Melbourne-based Clone International.

Clone International bought its technology from the US Geron Corporation, whose scientists are closely involved with Scotland's Roslin Institute, where Dolly the sheep clone was created.

RAB and Clone International say they expect to have between 20 and 40 clones a year from four dairy bulls. They are targeting regular customers in China, India, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Europe may be a market - if attitudes towards cloning become more favourable, they say.

See also:

29 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
Cloning gets specific
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