China cloning on an ‘industrial scale’

Fast-growing Chinese company BGI is not only the world’s largest center for gene sequencing, it’s also the world’s largest center for cloning pigs.

The technology involved is not particularly novel – but what is new is the application of mass production. The scale of ambition is staggering. BGI produces an astonishing 500 cloned pigs a year: China is exploiting science on an industrial scale.

The point of the work is to use pigs to test out new medicines. Because they are so similar genetically to humans, pigs can serve as useful “models”. So modifying their genes to give them traits can aid that process.

China is on a trajectory that will see it emerging as a giant of science: it has a robotic rover on the Moon, it holds the honor of having the world’s fastest supercomputer and BGI offers a glimpse of what industrial scale could bring to the future of biology.

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