World's largest commercial animal cloning centre to be built in Tianjin

TIANJIN - Chinese scientists have signed a deal to establish the world's largest commercial animal cloning centre in the northern port city of Tianjin, edging the controversial science closer to mainstream acceptance, Xinhua news agency reported on Monday (Nov 23).

The plant will clone animals including sniffer and pet dogs, beef cattle and racehorses, the report said. It cited sources as saying that the main building is already under construction and due to be put into use in the first half of 2016, said sources on Monday.

Sinica, a subsidiary of Boyalife Group, which focuses on stem cell and regenerative medicine, signed the agreement with the government's Tianjin Economic and Technological Development Area (TEDA) on Friday.

Sinica, Peking University's Institute of Molecular Medicine, the Tianjin International Joint Academy of Biomedicine, and South Korea's Sooam Biotech Research Foundation will jointly build the plane with an investment of 200 million yuan (S$44.43 million), Xinhua said.

The facility will produce 100,000 cattle embryos a year initially, eventually increasing to 1 million, Xinhua quoted Xu Xiaochun, board chairman of Boyalife Group which is based in Wuxi, east China's Jiangsu province, as saying.

Chinese farmers are struggling to produce enough beef cattle to meet market demand, Xu said.

The centre will also include a gene storage area and a museum, he added.

Scientists have cloned mice, cattle and other animals since the world's first cloned sheep, Dolly, was born on July 5, 1996 in Britain.

Since 2000, Chinese scientists have cloned sheep, cattle and pigs.

China's first commercial cloning company was established in September last year in the eastern Shandong province with the birth of three pure-blooded Tibetan mastiff puppies. The firm is a joint venture between Boyalife and Sooam Biotech.

Prior to this, cloning in China had been limited to scientific research. More and more companies have shown interest in investing in the technology for commercial use, especially animal husbandry.