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Will cat clone lottery extend to U.S. canines?


A LEADING genetics company is offering pet owners a chance to own the world’s first cloned pet cats – the first time pet cloning has been offered to the public. However, the offer from US-based Genetic Savings & Clone comes at a price – a cool $50,000 per cat, to be precise. (Equalling £26,760).

The company has targeted cat fanciers above ordinary pet owners, figuring that a fancier is more likely to meet the asking price for a clone. Any owner interested in being one of the world’s first cat fanciers to clone their feline is invite you to contact GSC before their offer ends on February 27, when they will announce and profile the nine cats they plan to clone in ‘The First Nine Lives Extravaganza.’

GSC funded ‘Operation CopyCat’ which produced ‘CC,’ the world’s first cat clone in late 2001. GSC ‘s announcement on their official website proclaims: "CC is a healthy two-year-old cat today. Our current technology is far more advanced than that used to produce CC, and we’re confident that the clones we produce for our clients will be consistently healthy and bear striking resemblance to their genetic donors.

"Despite our many refinements, feline cloning is still complex, time-consuming and costly. The cloning, pregnancy and weaning processes take approximately 6 months from start to finish – the final stage being delivery of the clones to their new families. This May, we’ll begin cloning 9 cats and expect to deliver the clones by November 2004."

Capacity

GSC is careful to point out that its cloning capacity is very limited this year, with an estimated maximum of only nine felines being born. This total includes three cats owned by the cat-loving staff at GSC, and six cats owned by their clients. Next year, the company states that it expects to increase its feline cloning capacity, and to finally launch its canine cloning service.

Special Features & Benefits

According to the company’s blurb, Cat fanciers who take advantage of "The First Nine Lives Experience" will receive numerous benefits including:

l The GSC Guarantee – Each clone will strongly resemble the genetic donor and be completely healthy. If you are unsatisfied with your clone, you’ll receive a full refund.

l Anonymity or Publicity - You may elect to remain completely anonymous or be featured in the publicity generated by this offer.

l GSC Extravaganza – You and a guest will receive, an all-expense-paid trip to attend a feline clone presentation party at our headquarters in Sausalito, California on the San Francisco Bay. At the party, our CEO Lou Hawthorne and Chief Scientist Dr. Irina Polejaeva will personally present your clone to you. You’ll also have the privilege of witnessing the presentation of clones to the other participants in "The First Nine Lives Extravaganza." This party should prove to be quite an interesting & exotic event! After the party, you and the other clients will attend a special dinner with the GSC staff.

l Cloning Video – GSC will produce and provide you with a video of the cloning process, birth of your clone, presentation party and dinner as a personal keepsake and remembrance. Your personal video will be provided in both VHS and DVD formats.

The all-inclusive price for each feline cloned is $50,000 USD. Participation in The First Nine Lives Extravaganza is on a first-come, first-serve basis. To be included, we must receive a completed Cloning Services Agreement along with a money order for 50% of the purchase price from you before February 27, 2004 at 12:00 PM PST. The balance of the purchase price must be paid at the time your clone is delivered to you.

Genetic Savings & Clone has its roots in the ‘Missyplicity Project’ that began in 1997 as an effort to clone a multi-millionaire’s crossbreed dog named Missy. That same year, news that Dolly the sheep had been cloned inspired Arizona entrepreneur John Sperling to find out whether Missy could also be cloned. Missy had an exceptional genetic endowment but, because she was a spayed mongrel of unknown parentage, it was otherwise impossible to continue her ‘breed.’

When Dr. Sperling launched a multi-million-dollar project to have Missy cloned, news spread quickly. Calls and emails poured in from people around the world who wanted to gene bank and clone their own remarkable pets. Dr. Sperling and other members of the Missyplicity Project founded Genetic Savings & Clone in February 2000 in response to this demand.

Technology

OUR DOGS has reported many times previously on the progress of the Missyplicity Project and other, less convincing cloning projects, such as those advanced by the Raelian Cult.

Sadly, Missy died at the ripe old age of 15 in 2002 before efforts to clone her had succeeded. However, thanks to GSC’s gene banking technology, her DNA remains available for use in cloning. The company’s website states: "We remain confident that our ongoing research efforts will result in Missy being the first dog cloned."


CSC’s Vice President of Communications Ben Carlson spoke exclusively to OUR DOGS on the ‘First Nine Lives’ promotion and the progress of the Missyplicity Project.

Did Mr Bradshaw feel that the $50,000 price tag was beyond the means of most ordinary pet cat owners?

"Absolutely," he replied, candidly. " I don’t know how many come will come forward. Certainly only a very few will be able to afford to at that price, but that is because cloning is expensive. We are confident that the price of cloning a pet will come down over time as the technology and capability to do so improves."

And did Mr Bradshaw feel that some people might see the ‘First Nine Lives’ promotion as turning science into a circus?

"We’ve had many claims that it’s frivolous to clone pets or that we are playing God, but we don’t see those as cloning specific arguments," he replied. "The charge of frivolity over practicality can be applied to many things that are enjoyable but not actually essential, such as owning fast cars or playing sport. As for us playing God, we’re not – but we are using our scientific knowledge to find out how nature works. Hopefully, we are, in our opinion, changing things for the better. Whereas pet cloning may not seem to be an important endeavour, cloning does help towards medical and scientific applications. It will also help us to preserve the rare wild cousins of cats and dogs. We also aim to clone good working dogs when we master dog cloning, by looking for the healthiest and best performing - all attributes that have a genetic basis and are influenced by genes."

Confident

The Missyplicity project has been going since 1997, and GSC always appeared to be confident that a cloned dog was ‘just around the corner’. Did their claim of having such a cloned dog by next year hold any more weight than previous claims?

"We’ve discovered along the way that dog cloning is much more difficult than cat cloning," said Mr Bradshaw. "There are three main reasons for this, not the least of which is that dogs go into heat irregularly compared with other animals and it is difficult to induce oestrus in a bitch to make her receptive to having cloned embryos implanted.

"Also, dogs’ eggs don’t mature in the bitch’s ovaries, they mature after fertilisation in the oviducts, which lead from the ovaries to the uterus. So we have to find some way to artificially create the oviduct environment in the laboratory for when the eggs are fertilised."

Mr Bradshaw remains convinced that GSC will ‘crack’ the problems and that the Missyplicity Project will not only see a perfect clone of the original Missy herself, but also many other pet dogs.

"We will succeed fairly soon and we’ll be able to offer this service to the public," he said. "It’s always been assumed that the price of a dog clone will be more than that of a cat clone due to the added difficulties in creating one. Even at $50,000, we can only produce a very low volume of cats and, even with people to buy them, we don’t make a profit. But one day, dog and cat clones will be readily available. We’re on the threshold of this now.
"Watch this space."

l Further details of GSC’s dog cloning programme and the Missyplicity project will appear in an exclusive interview with Ben Bradshaw, due to be published in OUR DOGS in our February 27th issue.