Firm helps hemophilia carrier have healthy child

04/29/2010 08:11 PM

Taipei, April 29 (CNA) A biotechnology company in Taiwan saidThursday that it has helped a local woman who carries the hemophiliagene to conceive a baby who will not suffer from hemophilia -- agenetic disease that makes bleeding uncontrollable -- and hailed itas the first case in Asia.

"Women often choose abortion after finding out that they have ababy with hemophilia, which is painful for them, both physically andpsychologically," Joanna Teng, the manager of Bionet Corp., said at apress briefing.

The woman, whose name was not revealed, had lost four sons overthe past 10 years, one of whom died during surgery, possibly becauseof hemophilia, when he was 7 months old, while the other were abortedafter being diagnosed with hemophilia.

"She did not give up despite a series of failed attempts. Now,she is having a healthy child due in August after using an advancedbiotechnology technique called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis(PGD)," said her doctor, Stork Lai.

"The biotechnology helps find out if an embryo is free of thehemophilia gene before the embryo is implanted in the womb, " he toldreporters.

At the press briefing, Lai donated NT$1 million (about US$32,000)he received from the woman's husband as a gift to benefit more ofthose in Taiwan who fear having a hemophiliac baby.

The donation will go to Genesis Genetics Asia (GGA), a subsidiaryof Bionet that offers the biotechnology. The donation is expected tobenefit 15 people, each of whom will receive a subsidy of NT$75,000that will pay for the biotechnology to screen out the hemophiliagene.

"The biotechnology is expensive and we hope the government canalso provide funds to better cover the expenses, " said Jacky Liao,head of Hemophiliacs' Rights Taiwan, a body dedicated to the welfareof hemophiliacs.

There are more than 900 hemophiliacs in Taiwan, many of whom wantto have children, he added.

Hemophiliacs are the top receivers of government subsidies fortheir disease expenses under Taiwan's national health program,according to government figures released in March.

The PGD technology, which was invented by U.S. doctor Mark Hughesin 1990, has helped some 5,000 cases in the United States and Europe,covering hemophilia and nearly 200 other hereditary diseases,according to GGA.

Bionet sought to obtain the biotechnology eight years ago, butdid not get authorization for the Asian region until 2008 afterbeating competitors from Malaysia, Japan and China, said Chris Tsai,the company's chairman.

Bionet established GGA in late 2008 as a joint venture withHughes' Genesis Genetics Institute.

A number of hospitals in Taiwan have recently announced that theyhave developed and applied similar biotechnologies for those whosuffer from various other genetic diseases.

(By Alex Jiang)ENDITEM/J

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