CC, short for Carbon Copy,
the first cloned cat.
Genetic Savings and Clone spun off Texas A&M six years ago, promising to revolutionize cloning through its chromatin (as opposed to nuclear) transfer technology. And specifically, it was going into the market of cloning dead pets.
Lou Hawthorne, CEO of the company, tried to cast the company from the beginning as offering a beneficial service to grieving pet owners, especially owners of mutts, whose “unique genetic material” would be lost; unlike a purebred, it would be impossible to get a cat or dog that looked just like the muttly beast recently departed from your life. The company said that the being of the animal was a combination of experience, intelligence and temperment, and that the last two were clonable and the family would need to provide the experience necessary to get a similar animal.
Needless to say, a lot of people didn’t buy that temperment and (especially!) intelligence is solely genetic.
On top of that, pricing a cloning service at $50,000, later dropped to $32,000, for people who want to recreate their mutt, seems to be automatically pricing most people out of the field. But Hawthorne was convinced that, by late 2007, the company would be both delivering litters of kittens and puppies, and making a profit.
Well, six years later, Genetic Savings and Clone has announced they’re closing their doors at the end of this year. Seems that cloning pets just isn’t a profitable venture – in fact, they only ever produced five cats: three research cats, one at $50,000 and one for $32,000.
That said, and it’s probably pretty obvious where I stand on the idea of cloning companion animals, I will give the company credit where it’s due: from the getgo, they publicly discussed the ethics behind their business, set up an internal code of bioethics that was published and adhered to, invited people to tour facilities on an as curious notice, and engaged in a lot of public debate with bioethicists, scientists and the media. They certainly believed in what they were doing, and went above and beyond all government regulations in animal care. They welcomed government oversight, so long as it meant that they were able to continue their own high level of care, and actively worked to shape the genetics/cloning debate the country had.
We might be on opposite sides of one opinion, but at least we would have agreed that it’s a necessary conversation that needs to be had, and had in public.