Crack open an egg and cure a disease

production plant capable of making "metric tonnes" of protein.

AviGenics already has transgenic cockerels producing new generations of GM birds. "They're very busy," says Carl Marhaver, the company's president. AviGenics uses the avian leukosis virus as a gene shuttle. "We microinject it into the pronucleus in the egg yolk," says Marhaver. The gene is then expressed in all the chicken's cells. AviGenics plans to contract out production and protein purification to companies which already produce vaccines in chicken eggs-a long-established practice in the pharmaceuticals industry.

Helen Sang, a chicken biotechnology researcher at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh is encouraged by the companies' work. "It is good progress, and proof of principle," she says. Sang, who is developing a virus-free method of shuttling genes into chickens, points out that the technology has been in development for a decade (New Scientist, 20 November 1993, p 19). But she is disappointed that neither company is keen to publish openly in the scientific literature.

Sensoli says the work it too commercially sensitive to publish, and all but two of the proteins under development are unknown outside the companies that discovered them. "It's a shame we can't blow our horn a bit more," he says.


Contact: Claire Bowles
New Scientist

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