Genetically engineered goats could be the key to mass-producing cancer drugs

Could the answer to mass-producing cancer drugs be … genetically modified- goats?

It might sound kind of crazy, but upon closer inspection, it actually makes a whole lot of sense. The drugs in question, thera- peutic mAbs (aka monoclonal antibodies), are used in the treatment of human diseases including cancer.

Pear-shaped scrotum with two firm testicles attached high above the hocks, two teats only, deep depth of twist.

of heart girth and depth and width of chest floor, as well as both the shoulder and pelvic angles and expressed muscle definition of the hindquarter and inside hind leg. A pear- shaped scrotum that is not split containing firm testicles of equal size and two teats are major criteria.

As yearlings, herdsire potentials are bred to a select number of does. Before final “seedstock” selections are completed, progeny profiles are carefully reviewed and evaluated.

Other criteria used to help make major Kiko breeding stock replacement selection decisions include evaluation of environmen- tal effects, health status, carcass data analy- sis, pedigree and progeny profile data, breeding values and performance, heritability and repeatability of genotypic and pheno- typic traits, genetic prediction(s) and the use of sire summaries. Be ruthless in culling. Putting selection pressure on both the does and bucks, over time, will enhance breeding stock quality and performance for meat production. Kiko meat goats are an eco- nomically and ecologically sound enterprise. They enhance land productivity, encourage vegetative biodiversity and hang a very high- quality carcass.

(Dr. An Peischel, PhD, is the retired Small Ruminant Extension Specialist, Ten- nessee State University and the University of Tennessee. She was the first importer of Kikos into the U.S. She can be contacted at

July 2020 | Goat Rancher 25

They are commonly produced in large bioreactors using cultured cells from mam- mals. But this process is extremely expensive, which in turn raises the cost for customers who may desperately need the drugs. An international team of researchers led by New Zealand-based Goetz Laible, a sen- ior animal scientist at the University of Auck- land, is setting out to make these drugs in a different way — by using genetically engi- neered goats to produce them in their milk. “To generate goats that are capable of producing the mAb in their milk, we first in- troduced the genes holding the information for the mAb into the genome of goat cells,” Laible told Digital Trends. “From such goat cells, live goats were generated using the cloning technology that was developed to generate the sheep Dolly. With these additional genes in their ge- nomes, the goats were able to produce the an-

tibody in their milk — but were otherwise normal, healthy animals.”

This is not the first time that genetically engineered goats have been used as unlikely manufacturing vessels in the name of science. In 2012, scientists tested the idea of using goats for the production of spider silk in large quantities.

Laible said that this latest study val- idates the idea that goats could serve as an “excellent platform” for large-scale produc- tion of cancer-treatment drugs at a lower cost. In the process, it could help make the drugs, which are used for the treatment of a wide range of human diseases, available more widely. It may also have additional benefits.

“The scale of production is essentially fixed at present due to the size of the biore- actor for mammalian cell cultures, and scal- ing of production volumes is very limited,” he said.

“By contrast, an animal production plat- form is very flexible. Production volumes can be readily scaled by simply increasing or de- creasing the number of production animals.” The team now plans to undertake ad- ditional testing to further demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of anti-cancer treat- ments manufactured using goats. n

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