TrendCrossing the gene barrier may offer solutions for persistent diseases -- and bioterror

Published 11 January 2006

Implanting human genes in receptive animals yields promising solutions to disease, and may hold potential for fighting bioterror

This may read like science fiction - but in the business of biotech, chimeras are about as close to science fiction as one can get. People have been crossing critters for centuries — yielding everything from mules to labradoodles. Jumping the gene barrier by giving animals copies of human genes is more dramatic. These creatures would act — and smell — as animals do, but their cellular machinery conceals unique biochemical capabilities. Already, more than fifty biotech and pharmaceutical companies are using mice from Princeton, New Jersey-based Medarex to develop treatments for terrible diseases — from malignant melanoma to lymphoma to lupus. Farmingdale, Massachusetts-based GTC Biotherapeutics’s goats (the company calls them “transgenic mammals”) may become factories for drugs which are too complex to produce any other way (see “More” below).

You may want to read this fascinating report on the work of two scientists on the forefront of gene crossing: Nils Lonberg, the scientific director at Medarex (Nasdaq: MEDX), which is taking a lead in commercializing transgenic mice, and Harry Meade, chief scientific officer of GTC Biotherapeutics (Nasdaq: GTCB). Meade created Sweetheart, a brown-striped goat with soulful eyes, which has a single human gene in the twined strands of her DNA that enables her to produce a life-saving drug in her milk. It is a protein which is normally found in human blood. The goat was named Sweetheart for her laid-back disposition.

-read more in this report