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Pharm Goats: The Controversy over Genetically Engineering Animals to Make Drugs

  • Old McDonald had a pharm
    And genetically modified his goats and chickens to produce drugs for humans. But hold on. Should we be doing this to animals?
    By Elizabeth Svoboda, June 11, 2008
    Straight to the Source

EXTRACT: When Newberry looks ahead, he likes to picture the day when GTC's goat herd will become the pharmaceutical equivalent of a soft-drink machine, dispensing a vast array of life-giving substances on command. 
CHARLTON, Mass. -- Encompassed by pastoral green fields, the headquarters of GTC Biotherapeutics looks like any other New England farmstead. But its serenity is deceiving. Behind barn doors, the farm's most valuable employees -- a herd of pygmy goats from New Zealand -- are working round the clock, their milk glands churning out hundreds of gallons of high-grade pharmaceutical compounds.

The white gold extracted from the goats' udders will someday command big bucks in the American healthcare marketplace -- or so GTC hopes. The company's genetically modified animals possess a human gene that allows them to produce milk rich with a protein called antithrombin, which helps prevent blood clots from forming and staves off related conditions like heart attacks and strokes.

Tom Newberry, GTC's vice president of corporate communications, leads me into a corrugated-metal hutch. Goats enclosed in pens train inquisitive rectangular pupils on us and poke their heads through the bars. "They're looking for a handout," Newberry says, chuckling. But we can't give these goats kibble or even a pat on the head; that would be a breach of strict sanitary regulations...

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