The Raelian religious sect, which believes space aliens created life on Earth, founded Clonaid. Officials at the company first promised DNA testing to prove a recently born baby was a clone, then backed off. Clonaid said the parents of the 7-pound baby girl refused to allow it.
The journalist who said he would oversee DNA testing to verify the company’s claim said Monday he has abandoned the effort and could not rule out the possibility of “an elaborate hoax intended to bring publicity to the Raelian movement.”
“The team of scientists has had no access to the alleged family and, therefore, cannot verify firsthand the claim that a human baby has been cloned,” Michael Guillen, a former ABC science editor who had offered to arrange the testing, said Monday.
Clonaid announced on Jan. 4 the birth of a second cloned baby, but has declined to offer any proof to verify their statements.
Usually, such scientific claims are accompanied by some kind of background data, and are submitted to experts for peer review before the results are made public, most often through publication in scientific journals. Experts who had been demanding independent verification said Clonaid has never enjoyed credibility within the scientific community.
Dr. Robert Lanza, medical director of Massachusetts-based Advanced Cell Technology, told Reuters it would be easy for Clonaid to offer proof of a successful cloning attempt.
“They are claiming to have the expertise to clone people and they didn’t even buy a home DNA kit?” he asked. “The samples could have been taken by someone in junior high school. That only adds to their complete lack of credibility.”
Natalie Dewitt, an editor at Nature, the British science journal that published the milestone data in 1997 on Dolly the cloned sheep, told the Associated Press her publication has ignored Clonaid’s claim “because we don’t view it as a scientifically valid statement.”
Guillen said previously that he had no connection to Clonaid. But he said in his statement Monday he has been interested in doing a documentary on human cloning that would involve Clonaid’s work. He also said he has covered the “principal players” in human cloning since the cloning of Dolly the sheep was announced.
The New York Times reported Sunday that Guillen tried months ago to sell exclusive coverage of Clonaid’s first baby to the major broadcast networks.
Some researchers attempting to use cloning technology to treat diseases and not to clone humans expressed concern that Cloniad’s announcement may lead to legislation that would halt their research.
“In all likelihood there now going to be a moratorium or a ban [on cloning research],” Lanza told Reuters. “It’s just damage control at this point.”
Others are confident that people will see a distinction between Clonaid and mainstream researchers.
“By association, they have done some damage,” Dewitt told the AP. “But they are so far removed from legitimate science that I don’t think it will cause a huge problem.”