The biotech company Intrexon will clone pets via its subsidiary ViaGen. The startup, located in Texas, is specialized in animal cloning technology, gene banking and “pet preservation”. The service is directed to affluent owners of cats and dogs who want to save the pet´s genome and have it available to produce new copies of them.
The first successful cloning of a pet happened in 2001. DNA from a cat was extracted from a differenciated cell and introduced into a denucleated egg cell, which was introduced and developed in a surrogate female cat. Many people must have thought that was an incredible business opportunity, but the technology was not ripe. Now, ViaGen claims to have cloned livestock and a litter of kittens. The main obstacle will be the price. Cloning a cat will cost $25000, and a dog will go for $50000. Genome storage, which requires a small biopsy sample from the animal to clone, cell culture growth and cryopreservation, will have an initial fee of $1600 and $150 per year after the first year.
Replicating elite genetics
ViaGen already offers their services to food animal producers and owners of entertainment livestock, claiming an improved quality, yield and safety. They have already cloned top performing cattle, horses, pigs, and goats. In this way, breeders permanently have a copy of their best animals, reducing the impact of their injury or death. They can also respond to the demand for embryos or semen, expand their reproductive potential and improve the quality of the herd.
In their website, ViaGen explains how genes not only contain the information for the physical appearance of a pet, but also for their personality and behaviour. While this is true, it must be considered that, even if the environment they will live in will be very similar to the one of the original animal, their life experiences will be different, contributing to dissimilar character traits.
It is unknown when the service will be available. ViaGen predicts the prices will drop as they scale, and they think the potential market is huge, given the popularity of pets.