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A new era for clone technology has began
| Updated: 2016-05-03 15:08:38 | By David Wong (chinadaily.com.cn) |

A new era for clone technology has began

Dr. Xu age 45 was born in Shanghai and in 1992 he travelled to Canada and obtained his Bachelor Degree in Honors in Biochemistry from the University of Saskatchewan, which is one of Canada’s western prairie provinces. Since then he has been very successful in the Bio Life Science sector.

He also received his PhD from Washington University School of Medicine and an EMBA from Emory University School of Business and is a visiting professor at the Institute of Molecular Medicine at Peking University. He has been involved with the discovery and development of two blockbuster drugs: Celebrex and Bextra, both are Non- Steroid Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) used for arthritis and joint pain and presently involved with ten other new drugs. Dr. Xu has written over 40 biomedical publications and received over 10 international awards. The latest being the Winner of 2013“China Economic Figure” Award 中国年度经济人物 and the 2012 “CCTV China Brand Award”.

Boyalife Group is jointly participated by seven domestically and internationally well-known institutions including Peking University, CAS, the Roslin Institute and the Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine. It is based in Wuxi, east China's Jiangsu Province. The partnership has won provincial and national support for key international cooperation projects by the Ministry of Science and Technology. Dr. Xu is committed to making life for everyone better in the future.

Why Tianjin?

So what does all this have to do with Tianjin? Last year, Dr. Xu signed a deal to establish a commercial animal cloning center in Tianjin, edging the controversial science closer to mainstream acceptance. The plant is in the Tianjin Economic and Technological Development Area (TEDA), a government-sponsored business development park. It will clone animals including sniffer and pet dogs, beef cattle and racehorses. Its main building is already under construction and due to be put into use soon.

Boyalife Genomics, a subsidiary of Boyalife Group, which focuses on stem cell and regenerative medicine, signed the agreement with the TEDA. With an investment of 200 million RMB (31 million US dollars), the center will be a joint project by Peking University's Institute of Molecular Medicine, the Tianjin International Joint Academy of Biomedicine, and the Republic of Korea's Sooam Biotech Research Foundation. Dr. Xu hopes to produce 100,000 cattle embryos a year initially, eventually increasing to 1 million. Boyalife Genomics (Tianjin) is adjacent to the Tianjin International Joint Academy of Biotechnology and Medicine (TJAB, www.tjab.org, 天津国际生物医药联合研究院). The TJAB is lead by Dr. Zhihe Rao, academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and former president of the Nankai University, one of the top ranked research universities in the nation. Boyalife Genomics has strong ongoing collaboration with TJAB in the field of biomedical researches.

Once the new plant in TEDA is fully operational, it will employ about 300 employees, all recruited locally. Dr. Xu feels strongly about choosing Tianjin for this next phase of Boyalife. Historically Tianjin has been the major port and economic center in northern China. However, since it is less than 200km from the capital, for a long time, its economic development was under the shadow of Beijing. This changed with the establishment of TEDA and the city is regaining its historic Glory.

A new era for clone technology has began

Cloning Controversy (In Chinese, it is “Ke Long”克隆 a phonetic translation)

This new center will be the one of the world’s largest Cloning factories and has received a great deal of media coverage. As mentioned, Cloning is a controversial topic. Just as the public is uneasy about GMO Genetically Modified Organisms, introduce the subject of Cloning and people question how safe or ethical are the results that enter our food chain.

The first successful case of cloning a mammal was accomplished in 1996 at the Roslin Institute in Scotland. They were able to clone a sheep using a cell from donor sheep and the resulting offspring was named “Dolly”. Dolly was publicly significant because the effort showed that genetic material from a specific adult cell, programmed to express only a distinct subset of its genes, can be reprogrammed to grow an entirely new organism.

Dr. Xu and his collaborators have successfully cloned “Sniffer Dogs” that are used in airports to identify contraband materials. The cloning targets highly developed senses necessary for the dogs to be effective. Dr. Xu has noted that as China develops its economy, its consumers also increases their level of consumption and beef consumption is rising rapidly. The increased demand far exceeds local production and imports are not able to satisfy the need. Domestic breeding programs would take a long time to achieve breed improvement and expand supply of beef cattle. Cloning seems to be the only solution and have the advantage of selecting traits of high quality beef breeds and characteristics.

Although it has only been 20 years since Dolly made the news, Plant Cloning has been done for over half a century. Dr. Xu explained that the first plant cloning was the tobacco plant in order to cope with the tobacco virus and rapidly expand viral-free plants. There are also other cases of plant cloning such as the blueberry plant.

Dr. Xu believes that there are 3 key factors required for successful transition of research into applications. First is the Maturity of Technology, does it work in an industrial scale? This usually takes about ten years with trials and verification. Second is there a Market Need, does the consumer want a new widget? The technology has to resolve a significant unmet need in order to be useful. Moreover, the discovery of a new device or process is useless if the public will not accept it or want to use it. The third factor is Capital Support. In order to successfully launch the new product, you need to have the resources to commercialize and deliver it. The first factor is met, cloning technology is proven and examples are abound in numerous countries. However, consumer acceptance and education is under review. It is critical that public knowledge is complete in order for a consumer to purchase and eat beef that has been successfully cloned. Dr. Xu feels that it is understandable that the public will initially doubt and question a new technology like cloning but as long as cloning can help solve unmet critical needs and doing so in good faith and in a self-disciplined manner, more people will understand and accept the technology rather than being frightened by it.

International Connections

Aside from the direct operations with Korea, Dr. Xu has also expanded operation to California in the USA. Recently, Boyalife in Tianjin was visited by CASG Canada Asia Synergy Group, Chairman Doug Horner who was the former Vice Premier and Minister of Agriculture for the province of Alberta, Canada. The province that raises the majority of Canada’s beef cattle, in fact, Alberta has more cows than people and is considered to have the best tasting beef anywhere.

Obviously the future success of cloning to solve China’s taste for high quality beef needs to be seen but one cannot help to be impressed by the dedication and commitment that Dr. Xu has shown. The facility and expertise gathered in the new Tianjin facility will provide the scientific backbone of this initiative. This is another example of putting Tianjin in the forefront of new technology development.


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