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Drug Trial Set-Back Shows Gov't Backing GE Loser

22 March 2002

Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said major doubts about the usefulness of the drug being produced by genetically engineered sheep in the Waikato shows the Government is backing a loser.

The US Food and Drug administration has said it is not happy with clinical trials of the AAT protein produced by the genetically engineered sheep because some emphysema patients dropped out due to extra "wheezing". A new trial of the drug will have to be started and the launch, if it is eventually approved, will be delayed from 2005 until at least 2007.

British share prices for PPL Therapeutics, the company behind the Waikato field trial, dropped to an all-time low on release of the news this week, as scepticism grows internationally about the likelihood of using genetically engineered animals as walking drug factories.

Ms Fitzsimons said the stock market was showing a lot more sense than the New Zealand Government.

"The Government has consistently backed "pharming" of genetically engineered animals as the high-tech way to build on New Zealand's primary production. But they've been sucked into a high risk, speculative venture.

"The "pharming" industry is in collapse overseas with PPL Therapeutics in crisis and one of their main rivals, Dutch firm Pharming, going into receivership last year.

"It's time the Government, and its research arm Agresearch, looked dispassionately at the evidence. Pouring more money into this dead end is a huge waste of tax-payers money, and is pushing out much more practical and viable research."

Ends

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