Guard on bull with human genes

IN a well-defended Dutch field, protected from animal liberationists by locks, guards and surveillance cameras, is a bull with human genes called Herman and a herd of 23 cattle ready to produce milk containing human protein.

Despite a swirling controversy in the Netherlands, plans are going ahead to test the protein from the cows' milk in infant formula for babies who cannot tolerate dairy produce and for a wide range of other pharmaceutical purposes.

'The genius of this,' said George Hersbach, president and chief executive of the company Gene Pharm that owns Herman, 'is that it is a renewable way of producing pharmaceuticals. What other process can you simply milk every day to produce what you need?'

Herman, who was born in December 1990, is the world's first transgenic bull - meaning that he is carrying a human lactoferrin gene which was injected into his embryo before birth. His female offspring will carry the human gene in their mammary glands and Mr Hersbach hopes they will be the first cows to produce human milk proteins on demand for the pharmaceutical industry when they start lactating in about nine months' time.

The human lactoferrin they are expected to produce works as a natural antibiotic which is effective against gastric infections. Mr Hersbach's hope is that it will help people with weakened immune systems like premature babies, cancer patients and Aids victims, who have little natural resistance to infection.

In Scotland, Pharmaceuticals Proteins Ltd has produced a transgenic sheep called Tracy which gives milk containing a human product that can be used against the lung disease emphysema. But unlike in the Netherlands, there has been no serious outcry about the ethics of breeding transgenic animals in this country.

The gene-splicing technology is proving that instead of using cultures to grow bacteria in a laboratory, large mammals can be bred to make medicines very cheaply. These animals are at the heart of Europe's budding biotechnology industry, which the European Commission believes is central to the future competitiveness of the European Union.

The Dutch society for the prevention of cruelty to animals has been campaigning hard against the production of transgenic animals. One poster portrays a topless woman with udders in place of breasts over the caption: 'Today a cow, tomorrow you]'

The campaign appears to be having an effect. Nutricia, Europe's second largest infant formula manufacturer, admits losing 4 m Dutch guilders ( pounds 1.54 m) as a result of the outcry and has put off plans to put the human protein extracted from the cows' milk into its products.

Environmentalists tend to oppose the sort of genetic manipulation which has resulted in the arrival of a transgenic tomato in Dutch grocery stores, because the long-term consequences are unclear.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there