Kheiron Biotech turns out as game-changer in horse breeding - GulfToday

Kheiron Biotech turns out as game-changer in horse breeding


Daniel Sammartino, the founder of Argentina based cloning specialist company Kheiron Biotech, poses with a team of scientists.

Gulf Today, Staff Reporter

In what could be termed as a game changer, scientists at Kheiron Biotech situated in Argentina are making use of a strong DNA editing mechanism called Crispr to rewire the genomes of the cloned horses which enables them to jump better and faster.

The DNA editing technique, Crispr stands for Clustered, Regularly Interspaced, Short Palindromic Repeat. It is a naturally occurring defense mechanism which is used by bacteria.

Bacteria carry specific genetic codes within their DNA which help it to recognize foreign agents. On recognizing the agent, the bacteria then sends out an enzyme which destroys the invader, as per the media reports.

Daniel Sammartino, the founder of Argentina based cloning specialist company Kheiron Biotech, says with pride this technology brings unimaginable progress in horse breeding.

“It could be possible to achieve better horses in less time.”

The International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI) lifted the ban on cloned horses participating in Olympics and international events in 2013. This was done because it was found that cloned horses didn’t hold a massive advantage over the horses which were raised in the traditional method.

Speaking to Gulf Today in an exclusive interview, Sammartino said: Kheiron is our flagship company because it is one of the first companies of the group.

“We started in 2012 from scratch with a green-field project. I was the CEO of a very large argentine-italian industrial engineering group.

 “I retired from that position as CEO and decided to become an entrepreneur where I then founded all these small start-ups with the common ground that they are all innovative, the technology is developed in-house. We did all of our inventions in- house from scratch.

“Everything was started with a couple of scientists that came and visited me at that time. They had already cloned two horses in the university, and I was immediately impressed and captivated by the project of founding a cloning lab. As usual, the first year was difficult: I think in the first year we only produced one clone, but now after several years we can claim that we are the most successful and advanced horse cloning company in the world,” he added.

Cloning has been used in several sports for over the past many years now.

The first cloned horse, Prometea, was born in 2003. Cloned horses are not uncommon in professional polo. In 2016, polo star Adolfo Cambiaso, rode six horses all cloned from the same horse and won the Argentinian open, as per the story.

Crispr however is different from cloning. Cloning is simply a genetic copy of an original living form. Crispr will generate horses that have been deliberately altered to affect improvement. Currently there are no rules preventing genetically modified animals from international competitions including the Olympics. That may change once the first Super Foal hits the ground.
Question: How much revolution has this technique brought in the breeding process?
Ans: I think so, that is precisely the point. For several reasons. You are now breeding hundreds and thousands of horses in order to get the desired horse, and you try different combinations and spend a lot of money to get what you desire.

With a clone, for example let's take polo: you have a foal, you breed a foal, you take it through all the breeding process and that horse is not playing until he or she is 7 years of age. So you have to wait 7 years, of which 4 years are reproduction years until you know whether that horse is a good horse to breed from or not, if it is a good horse to play or not.

During those years you lose 4 years of reproduction because you don’t want to cross that mare because you are still unsure as to whether it will be a good horse to play or not. With a clone, you know that the horse is going to perform as you have the genes and the certainty. So the horse is not playing in the 3rd or 4th years for example, but you can still reproduce because you know she has the genes so you earn a lot of reproduction seasons.

Secondly, those seasons are extended because for example in Argentina the polo season is in Spring, it goes from September to December and you cannot breed from the horse because she is playing so you have to wait until the season is finished.

With cloning, when the horse is 3, 4 or 5 years for example, the horse will not be playing and so you get a full breeding season. By having this opportunity, you can try the mare with more stallions which improves your chances of getting a future “crack” because you don’t go to only one stallion, you can trial and error with a few.

So these are many advantages of breeding with clones. Another point is that you can breed animals that in normal life would not be able to be bred as you can bring a gelding back into reproduction through cloning for example we are now breeding a mare from the 90s with a stallion from 2020.

Question: Are you in talks with people in the horse breeding industry in the UAE or GCC?

Ans: Yes, we are in talks with lots of people and we are already in the process of installing some facilities in the region. We have also been contacted for camel cloning and we are talking to several camel breeding facilities to make joint ventures so the Middle East is clearly very similar to Argentina when it comes to breeding with the tradition etc.

Question: How important is the Middle East market for Kheiron?

Ans: It is extremely important. In the Middle East, the horse cloning market is growing very quickly and the local breeders are open to adopting and implementing the most innovative and ground-breaking genetic editing technologies.

Argentina and the Gulf share a culture and a common history of horse breeding and this makes them very interested in the services that we at Kheiron can provide them with as well. We are the most  advanced and innovative cloning company in the world and the Middle East is our fastest growing market right now.

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