Chinese scientists have signed a deal to establish a commercial animal cloning center in the northern port city of Tianjin, edging the controversial science closer to mainstream acceptance.
The plant in the Tianjin Economic and Technological Development Area (TEDA), a government-sponsored business development park, will clone animals including sniffer and pet dogs, beef cattle and racehorses. Its main building is already under construction and due to be put into use in the first half of 2016, said sources on Monday.
Boyalife Genomics, a subsidiary of Boyalife Group, which focuses on stem cell and regenerative medicine, signed the agreement with the TEDA on Friday.
With an investment of 200 million yuan (31 million US dollars), the center will be jointly built by Sinica, Peking University's Institute of Molecular Medicine, the Tianjin International Joint Academy of Biomedicine, and the Republic of Korea's Sooam Biotech Research Foundation.
It will produce 100,000 cattle embryos a year initially, eventually increasing to 1 million, said Xu Xiaochun, board chairman of Boyalife Group, based in Wuxi, east China's Jiangsu Province.
Chinese farmers are struggling to produce enough beef cattle to meet market demand, Xu said.
The center, the largest such facility worldwide, will also include a gene storage area and a museum, he added.
Scientists have cloned mice, cattle and other animals since the world's first cloned sheep, Dolly, was born on July 5, 1996 in Britain.
Since 2000, Chinese scientists have cloned sheep, cattle and pigs.
China's first commercial cloning company was established in September 2014 in the eastern Shandong Province with the birth of three pure-blooded Tibetan mastiff puppies. The firm is a joint venture between Boyalife and Sooam Biotech.
Prior to this, cloning in China had been limited to scientific research. More and more companies have shown interest in investing in the technology for commercial use, especially animal husbandry.