Researchers at the University of Edinburgh at the Roslin Institute are genetically modified chickens to produce human proteins in their eggs.
They hope that one day the project will lead to life-saving drugs that are much cheaper to manufacture. The team modifies the genomes of chickens, so their eggs contain large amounts of high-quality protein. Only three eggs contain a clinically meaningful dose, according to scientists.
Initially, the proteins will be used in the studies, but laboratory tests have already found that they work at least as well as equivalent drugs. Protein-based therapies such as Herceptin and Avastin can be effective when traditional medicines fail but are very expensive.
The new research ̵
1; a collaboration between the Institute and Roslin Technologies at the university – promises a far cheaper production process.
We meet tomorrow's doctors in a safe facility at the Institute. Dozens of transgenic chickens are kept in rows of spacious pens. Their work is clear enough: to put 300 eggs a year. There are also loops here, something surprising for someone like me.
Their purpose is twofold. Chickens will not lie if there is no cock in the vicinity. Plus, men have to make more transgenic chickens.
These creatures are not clones. New generations of protein manufacturers are produced in a conventional, biological way.
Professor Helen Sang of the Institute says it's a cost-effective way to increase production:
"If you want more eggs, you just need more birds."
"That's why in this pen we have a cock – and it can produce terribly many children for a short time."
In a laboratory, far from the cacophony of chicken bread, Dr Lisa Herron of Roslin Technologies produces a tray of brown eggs that will be decorate every breakfast table
But these will never get into the food chain. "Originally it's pretty old-fashioned," she says.
"We just break the egg, and I've become quite skilled in egg cracking over the years."
The golden yolk is set aside. This is an egg protein that contains the treasure: large amounts of medically important proteins.  "These proteins are really, really expensive to produce," she says, "because you can not just synthesize them in a chemical lab."
"You need a living system to produce them because the proteins are very large molecules, very complex and they need the whole machine of the cell to make them and fold properly. "