Animal Cloning Takes Center Stage at Baylor Lecture

April 23, 2007

by Frank Raczkiewicz

Dr. Scott Davis, cofounder and former president of ViaGen Inc., an Austin biotechnology company, will speak about animal reproduction and genetics at 7 p.m., Friday, April 27, in the Baylor Science Building room B.110. Davis is the featured speaker at this year's Davidson Lecture, hosted by Baylor's biology department. The biology department also will hold its annual Awards Night before the lecture. Both events are free and open to the public.

"This time of year, a driver on any Texas road will often see newborn calves, colts and other offspring in the fields. You probably assume that each of those animals was produced the old fashioned way, but what if each were actually a clone of another animal?" said Dr. Rene Massengale, an assistant professor of biology at Baylor who helped organize the event. "Would you see the animal any differently? What if the meat at your local grocery store came from these cloned animals? Would that meat be safe to eat?"

Davis will address these questions and many others during his speech. In fact, his company has already been developing advanced state-of-the-art methods for animal cloning that have the potential to greatly improve agricultural animal production now and in the future. In March 2006, ViaGen announced the first successful commercial cloning of a mare when they cloned "Royal Blue Boon." Since that time, they have cloned several other horses and stored the DNA genes of dozens more.

"The lecture will be of interest to a wide range of people," Massengale said.

ViaGen also conducts research and provides commercial gene banking services and the USDA-approved AnguSure test. The AnguSure test is valuable to the beef industry because it confirms that a meat product is truly Angus beef, one of the most popular beef varieties. ViaGen employs more than 50 employees and is considered one of the global leaders in animal cloning and gene banking.

Davis, a fourth generation native Texan, earned his bachelor's degree at Baylor and a doctorate in population biology at Washington University in St. Louis. He joined the faculty in the department of animal science at Texas A&M University in 1986, where he rose to the rank of full professor and served two years as chairman for genetics. In 2000, Davis left the university environment and founded a biotech startup company using molecular markers as tools for genetic improvement. Over the next six years, he founded and served as president of two additional companies which focus on the use of advanced reproductive technologies for the dissemination of superior genetics. ViaGen was founded in 2002.

The Davidson Lecture series is endowed by Dr. Floyd Davidson and his wife Lorene. Davidson served as a Baylor biology faculty member from 1946-97. He served as the department chair for more than 30 years during that time.

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