GE Stands for Genetically Engineered Now — Growing Drugs in Animals?

In spite of all the brouhaha about salmon and disease- or drought-resistent cattle, it looks like the first genetically engineered animal approved by the FDA will be a goat.  As reported in USA Today by Elizabeth Weise (http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/genetics/2009-01-07-goat-drug_N.htm), the goat is an asset of Framingham, MA-based GTC Biotherapeutics (Nasdaq:GTCB, http://www.gtc-bio.com/), and has been bio-engineered to produce an drug, ATryn, a recombinant form of human thrombin (an anti-clotting agent), in its milk.  Clever, these scientists.

GE Goat Producing ATryn (chart courtesy FDA)

GE Goat Producing ATryn (chart courtesy FDA)

The vision of GE animals can wax poetic: “imagine a new kind of food farm: animals that flourish on infertile lands, eat less but grow faster; there are no fears if disease or environmental side-effects on these farms and the animals produce meat that is lean, safe and nutritious.  Think of all that can be gained, then then again, think of all that can be lost — What will the face of genetically engineered food farms really look like?” asks Adam Anson, reporting for ThePigSite (http://www.thepigsite.com/articles/0//2507/brave-new-farm-ge-food-animals-in-the-usa). 

Of course there has been substantial controversy about GE grains, so needless to say the idea of drugs being produced by GE goats is likely to stir some people up.  ThePigSite smiles at talks of “scenarios involving giant chickens and headless cattle,” but most of the talk so far has been about food — I hear more about GE salmon than anything else.  But a drug producing goat?  Rather than a tilt-up building in New Jersey full of clanking machines and white-coated lab techs?  Sounds like a great idea to us, and goats are great lawnclippers too.  I wonder if it eats tin cans?

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