Man’s best friend doesn’t have to be one of a kind

The furry, gray-and-white dog snoozing under Lou Hawthorne’s desk doesn’t look like a controversial figure, but the way she came into the world prompts responses from exhilaration to derision.

Mira, a border collie-husky mix, is a clone of Hawthorne’s dog Missy, who died in 2002 at age 15.

“We’ve had a lot of dogs, but Missy was amazing,” the Mill Valley resident said. “She was more beautiful, smarter and had an eerie capacity with language.”

Hawthorne, CEO of BioArts International, began the Missyplicity project in 1997 to find a way to clone his beloved dog. In December, Mira was born. Her sisters, Chin-Gu and Sarang, followed in February. All were born from a small sample of Missy’s tissue and their authenticity as clones was verified by UC Davis. Fourth and fifth clones have reportedly been born but not formally announced.

Not only do they look like Missy, Hawthorne said, but they share her passion for snuggling, preference for sleeping outside and penchant for stealing human treasures.

Next month, BioArts will launch a global auction to clone the dogs of five bidders. The auction, July 5-9, will begin at $100,000. A sixth person, the winner of an essay contest at www.bestfriendsagain.com, will win the opportunity to clone his or her dog for free.

Hawthorne said that based on the number of qualified participants who have signed up so far, he expects about three dozen people to vie for the chance to clone their dogs.

The cloning program is a partnership between Hawthorne’s company and Sooam Biotech Research Foundation in South Korea. Dr. Hwang Woo-Suk, who produced the first cloned dog, Snuppy, in 2005 at Seoul National University, leads the team. Hwang was expelled after lying about creating human embryonic stem cells through cloning. Despite that, Hawthorne said, he remains the world’s foremost authority on canine cloning.

Meanwhile, public acceptance of dog cloning may have a ways to go.

Charlene Evans, a 36-year-old San Francisco secretary, said she would never replace her miniature dachshund through science.

“They’re right that they’re never going to find a dog like the one they have,” she said. “But instead of getting their dog cloned, they should move on and rescue another dog — maybe a better dog — that would otherwise die.”

Peninsula Humane Society spokesman Scott Delucchi said that while genes are important, dog personalities also are influenced by experience, and that is tougher to replicate.

tbarak@sfexaminer.com

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

The San Francisco International Arts Festival will present performances this weekend outdoors at Fort Mason, including on the Parade Ground, Eucalyptus Grove and Black Point Battery. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF International Arts Festival wins health department approval for weekend performances

Rules allow no more than 50 people at outdoor Fort Mason performances

A lab worker from the Medical Examiner’s Office was arrested with an evidence bag of methamphetamine in August. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Audit over lab worker meth arrest finds medical examiner is missing drugs

An audit of the Medical Examiner’s Office prompted by the arrest of… Continue reading

City officials argue that the dominance of a few third-party delivery services gives them disproportionate leverage against restaurants. (Courtesy photo)
Cap on food delivery app fees may remain until indoor dining allowed at full capacity

Proposal seen as financial relief for restaurants struggling in pandemic

A voting station will be open in Portsmouth Square in Chinatown from Oct. 31 until Nov. 3 to let residents drop off ballots and provide assistance to SRO residents. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Chinatown voting station to help SRO residents make their voices heard

In a bid to boost voting access for single-room-occupancy tenants in Chinatown,… Continue reading

Most Read