The world’s largest animal cloning factory is currently under construction in northeast China. The facility, which is a joint Chinese-Korean venture, is being set up as a means to satisfy an increase in China's demand for beef, with the eventual aim to turn out a million cattle a year. It also has plans to produce sniffer dogs destined for both the police force and customs agencies, as well as cloning successful racehorses and pets for members of the public.
The 200 million yuan ($31 million, £20.8 million) facility is located in the industrial city of Tianjin, with construction expected to be completed by 2016. Its initial focus will be on producing 100,000 cow embryos a year to try and meet the growing demand in China for high-quality Japanese beef. Eventually, it plans to step this up to a million embryos churned out annually. The factory's plans, however, have been met by some with skepticism and concern.
The new center will consist of a 15,000-square-meter (161,500-square-foot) cloning lab, a gene bank, animal center, and a scientific and educational installation. It will not only provide services to the agricultural and business sector, they also want to use their facilities and expertise in the field of conservation and to help save endangered species. Xu Xiao-chun, chief executive of the company BoyaLife that is building the project, suggested in 2014 that they might be able to produce the world’s first cloned panda.
The factory is being built in partnership with the South Korean company Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, which has been cloning pet dogs for private customers since 2005. Costing around $100,000 (£66,500) each and with a six-month waiting list, you can send off a tissue sample of your beloved pooch and get a clone back in return. The company has managed to perfect the dog cloning technique, producing around 550 puppies over the decade. Sooam is headed by the controversial Hwang Woo-suk, who in 2006 was disgraced after it was claimed he had fabricated his research purporting to show the first successful cloning of a human embryo.
This new industrial facility comes as China continues to assert its dominance in the field of cloning, something that the country has been doing for the last 15 years. There is already a commercial cloning factory for pigs in southern China, where they perform two embryo implantations every day, turning out an impressive 500 animals each year. But the new one being built in Tianjin is on another scale all together, one which they hope will lead the way in cloning.