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Dr Sue Mayer, GeneWatch
"People may have problems morally with their body tissues being used in genetic engineering"
 real 28k

Dr Ron James, PPL Therapeutics
"We did not get the DNA from the woman directly"
 real 28k

Monday, 3 July, 2000, 09:00 GMT 10:00 UK
Dolly firm used woman's DNA
Dolly the sheep
Thousands of sheep were inserted with the DNA
The Scottish company behind Dolly the sheep has been criticised for inserting a woman's DNA into thousands of sheep without her knowledge.

The pressure group GeneWatch has highlighted the case and says it is concerned about the use of genetic information from donors.

But management at Edinburgh-based biotech company PPL Therapeutics has denied acting improperly.

Most donors do not think their DNA will be patented, inserted into animals or bacteria and used to boost the profits of some company

Dr Sue Mayer, GeneWatch
The DNA in question is understood to have come from a sample donated by a Danish woman during the 1980s and was inserted into thousands of sheep in New Zealand.

Scientists used the human DNA as part of their research into a cure for conditions including cystic fibrosis.

But PPL Therapeutics' managing director Dr Ron James denied it now owned the rights to the donor's genetic information.

He said it was the idea that the firm owned, not the DNA itself.

"I am sure that if the lady knew we were going to use the sample to cure people with cystic fibrosis she probably would not have minded," added Dr James.

Ethical objections

GeneWatch has called for stricter guidelines over the use of such tissue donated to medical research and said the government must act now to prevent the patenting of genetic information.

Dr Sue Mayer, director of GeneWatch, said: "People give blood and organs thinking they will be shared freely with other people. They are given as a gift.

Gene test
The DNA was used for research into cystic fibrosis
"Certainly most donors do not think their DNA will be patented, inserted into animals or bacteria and used to boost the profits of some company.

"Many people would find this morally objectionable."

The UK Department of Health has admitted that DNA taken from blood or tissue banks in Britain can be used in genetic experiments by scientists at universities and biotech firms as long as the donor is not identified.

Professor Sandy McCall-Smith, vice-chairman of the UK Government's Human Genetics Commission, said DNA donors should be told what experiments their samples are to be used for.

He said: "There needs to be very clear guidelines on how human DNA is stored and used by industry."

PPL was forced to reveal the source of the human DNA it had inserted into the sheep after rumours began circulating in New Zealand that it had come from the local Maori community.

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