Lou Hawthorne Quits

Posted by Pete Shanks September 18, 2009
Biopolitical Times

BioArts, the successor to Genetic Savings and Clone, has stopped selling dog clones. In a long explanation, CEO Lou Hawthorne offers six reasons:

  1. The market is tiny.
  2. The competition has started a price war, in which he cannot compete.
  3. There are continuing legal issues with patents.
  4. It's too hard to treat many dogs well ("unscalable bioethics").
  5. Cloning has unpredictable results (see below).
  6. People keep asking the same dumb questions.

When he says the market is tiny, he really means it. When they offered to clone a dog for free (as a prize), they expected hundreds of thousands of applications; they got 237. No wonder they had trouble selling dog clones at $138,500!

Perhaps of most interest in his statement are some of the details about technical problems:

  • Efficiency rates varied unpredictably and were generally low.
  • The kennels were frequently infected by various diseases.
  • One clone had greenish-yellow fur where it should have been white.
  • Others had "skeletal malformations, generally not crippling though sometimes serious and always worrisome."
  • One clone of a male was born female.

That last item is stunning. Assuming the lab work was adequate (Hwang Woo-Suk and his team did it), it seems to imply that something very strange happened in early embryonic development. It certainly would be useful if this became the subject of a peer-reviewed article.

Following Hawthorne's remarkable career has been interesting. He set out to clone his mother's dog, and eventually Hwang managed it. Three of the clones live with Hawthorne. We wish them all a long and happy private life.

Previously on Biopolitical Times: