Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, led by Hwang, said in a statement it had teamed up with BioArts International in California. The California company Wednesday announced it would auction off the right for five dog owners to have their furry best friend cloned, with bidding in a worldwide online auction starting on June 18 beginning at 100,000 dollars.
BioArts says on its Best Friends Again website that it has been granted the sole worldwide licence for the cloning of dogs, cats and endangered species by Start Licensing. This includes technology developed at Britain’s Roslin Institute which cloned Dolly the sheep, it says.
“BioArts is the only entity in the world with both the know-how and the legal right to practise commercial dog and cat cloning,” it says.
“I know the association with Dr Hwang is going to be controversial,” the New York Times quoted Lou Hawthorne, the chief executive of BioArts, as saying. “One of the contradictions of Dr Hwang is that he made mistakes on his human stem-cell research, and he’s the first to admit that.”
Hwang’s claims that he had created the first human stem cells through cloning turned out to be bogus. He was stripped of all government honours and funds, including his title of “Supreme Scientist.” He is on trial for fraud, embezzlement, ethical breaches and other charges, but has insisted in court that he could prove he created the first cloned human stem cells.
Hawthorne said Hwang’s dog cloning work had been independently verified. “Our main concern is simply he’s the best when it comes to dog cloning. And for that reason it behooves us to work with him.”
On its website, BioArts showcases three of the four clones of Hawthorne’s family dog “Missy” which died in 2002. Since then, Missy has been the subject of extensive cloning research. The remaining clone is kept at Sooam Biotech, which carried out the project to re-create Missy.
Hwang’s colleagues at Seoul National University (SNU) created the world’s first cloned dog, an Afghan hound named Snuppy, on a non-commercial basis in 2005. University researchers said Snuppy would become a father later this month following the first breeding of cloned canines. He is said to have impregnated two cloned bitches of the same breed through artificial insemination.