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Group: Clone research 'going very nicely'


NEW YORK (CNN) -- Human cloning has been a hot topic recently, especially since the U.S. House of Representatives passed a comprehensive ban of it last week.

Brigitte Boisselier is the scientific director of Clonaid, a controversial research project designed to clone humans. Clonaid was founded by members of a religion called the Raelian movement, which believes that extraterrestrial scientists created life on Earth and that cloning is a way of achieving eternal life.

Clonaid also has been the subject of a Food and Drug Administration probe after Boisselier told a congressional hearing that the company wanted to clone a human in the United States.

Boisselier spoke Monday with CNN anchor Leon Harris from New York.

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HARRIS: The last time we spoke with you, perhaps back in March or so, you said that you were going to have a human clone by the month of April and that did not happen. Or did it happen?

BOISSELIER: I never said that it would be by the end of April. I'm very surprised when I hear that on the -- or when I read that in articles. I said that we were in the process of doing it and we are; our research is going very nicely, and everything is fine with Clonaid.

Now, I will not reveal exactly when the first clone ... is supposed to be born because I don't want to have the FDA into that every day. But everything is going very, very nicely.

HARRIS: Now, is the FDA your concern? Is that the reason why you're moving out of the U.S. as we hear now?

BOISSELIER: It's true that we opened up a new facility outside of the U.S. because I want to respect the law in the country I'm living in. And so I did respect the law, and I will not do anything against the law in this country.

HARRIS: So the move that was made in Congress, the enacting of this bill, this anti-cloning bill, that is the specific reason why you moved outside the U.S.?

BOISSELIER: No, actually I'm, it's not a surprise that this bill was passed in the House of Representatives. It has to pass the Senate now, and you should remember in 1998 the Senate refused to accept such a law. So I'm very confident that the freedom of reproduction will be preserved in this country.

HARRIS: So is it true then that you expect to be part of a movement to actually push this issue all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court?

BOISSELIER: We definitely want to challenge it up to the Supreme Court because we believe that it is perfectly (against) the Constitution to dictate what should be the right of people, how to reproduce. One day we'll be able to reproduce either by sexual reproduction, in-vitro fertilization, cloning. It will be a broad choice, and you are allowed to do what you want with your own genes.

HARRIS: Well, what do you say to those who say that you are rushing this whole process? In fact, the sheep Dolly, the famous sheep that was cloned, it took some 300 attempts at cloning for it to be successful, and along the way there were a number of deformed calves that were formed that had to be destroyed.

Since the science has not been totally nailed down and every wrinkle ironed out, why is it then you want to proceed and have the same chances of that happening with a human?

BOISSELIER: Well, you know, four years ago they needed several hundreds of embryos to have one clone. Today ... the success rate is around 15 to 20 percent already. And sexual reproduction, normal reproduction, we should say, is at a success rate of 10 percent in the human. So, you know, if we compare just the numbers.

But what is important to know is that we have 22 years' experience in in-vitro fertilization, in producing human embryos. They don't have the same experience doing sheep embryos or cows' embryos. So they implement everything and see what's going out. We don't do that for human beings. We ... check very, very carefully what -- if the embryo is viable, whether there are any defects. ... And we also have designed very proprietary techniques to check genes' imprinting. I mean I don't want to go too much into the details.

HARRIS: Right. I understand.

BOISSELIER: But there are very good ways to check whether an embryo is viable or not.

HARRIS: Well, let me ask you about some, whether or not, another comment that ... has been attributed to you is that you had some 50 women who were standing by, willing volunteers, to be implanted. Now, we have not heard about anyone coming up or producing a child or producing it in an embryo, even, from this process.

Have you been working with these 50 women all along, and we just haven't heard the reports about it?

BOISSELIER: Well, I will not disclose where I am right now. I'm sorry. So the only thing I'm telling you is that we have labs. We have partners, and we are proceeding in a very serious and conscious way, and indeed we also have surrogate mothers to carry the child. So everything is perfect in our project.

• Andrology Institute of America
• National Academy of Sciences

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