Estonia's first transgene calf isn't a world first, but it does show the capability of the nation's science sector, said one scientist in taking stock of one of the summer's biggest science stories. The hard part is expected to be securing a patent.
Toivo Maimets, professor of cellular biology at the University of Life Sciences, told ERR radio that Estonia was in the vanguard of the world's traditional research-oriented countries.
In July, Estonian scientists reported that they had succeeded in cloning Juuni, a calf with a human growth hormone production gene. The animal was birthed in late June.
They had to master two relatively difficult skills, said Maimets - cloning the animal itself and gene transfer technology.
Juuni will hopefully yield milk containing growth hormone which can be extracted and used in treating disease. The process is expected to lower the cost of pharmaceutical production, Mait Klaassen, the rector of the university and trained in veterinary medicine, told ERR radio.
"This calf and all analogous ones in the future will benefit all of humankind in that such animals will secrete a certain medicinal product or derivative product in their milk. Humans have long sought natural sources of medicines. Now we're relatively close to finding a way to harvest the natural drug so that it is controllable. It is a landmark achievement in that sense."
Estonian scientists are now looking for avenues for patenting Juuni the calf.
"It could be a cash cow in that sense, if we are able to resolve copyright and patent issues, as a patent with the same heading is held by Carlos Melo. Now we have to find the niche or argument that says this calf is special," said Maimets.
Melo's article was published in 2006.