LONDON - The Roslin Institute has set up a company, Roslin Bio-Med, to commercialize the nuclear transfer technology that led to Dolly, the first mammal cloned from an adult cell.

The new company, established with £6 million from the venture capital firm 3i plc, will concentrate on developing the technology for biomedical applications, mainly in the area of xenotransplantation.

Harry Griffin, of the Roslin Institute, in Edinburgh, Scotland, told BioWorld International, “So far, the technology has only been taken part of the way to where we would like it to be. We can use the technique to produce live animals, and we can add genes. But there are major technical challenges, including gene targeting. This has been achieved in mice using embryo stem cells, but has never been achieved in livestock. We also want to extend the range of species to which nuclear transfer technology can be applied.“

Roslin Bio-Med has an exclusive license to develop nuclear transfer technology for all biomedical applications of the precise genetic modification of livestock, excluding those applications covered by the Roslin Institute's agreement with PPL Therapeutics plc, also of Edinburgh, which specializes in producing therapeutic proteins in the milk of transgenic animals.

Company Targeting Xenotransplantation

Griffin said that in the first two to three years, Roslin Bio-Med will concentrate on developing the technology, particularly to extend it to pigs to produce organs for use in xenotransplantation.

As previously reported, the Roslin Institute will license the nuclear transfer technology to PPL Therapeutics for the production of therapeutic proteins in the milk of transgenic ruminants and rabbits, and the modification of milk composition for nutraceutical use.

PPL also has a xenotransplantation program, but, Griffin said, “We won't collaborate at the moment on xenotransplantation with PPL. As you know, there are a lot of players in that field. To establish a partnership at this stage would be premature.“

Griffin said the Roslin Institute has looked at the commercialization of each field of use of nuclear transfer technology in three ways: licensing, joint ventures and setting up its own company.

“With proteins in milk we decided to license to PPL,“ he said. “On other biomedical applications it seemed more appropriate to develop the technology in a company owned by the institute - though in the future we will be looking to work with a partner.“

The institute, which holds 42 percent of the equity in Roslin Bio-Med, also is in the process of negotiating with potential partners for a third major use of the technology, the production of commercial farm livestock.

The £6 million from 3i will fund Roslin Bio-Med for three years. The company, with 50 staffers, will be based at the Roslin Biotechnology Center, which is being developed by the institute as a campus for biotechnology companies. PPL Therapeutics also is based at the site.

Roslin Bio-Med currently is recruiting a CEO and expects to give further details of its research program next month. *