In this week's BioNews, we report on the latest news from the world of Severino Antinori, who has made another claim that the world's first cloned baby is imminent. According to Antinori, a woman is due to give birth in January and the pregnancy is developing normally.
Of course, the defining characteristic of news about Severino Antinori is that it's not clear whether it really is news. Antinori is becoming famous for making press conference announcements of his intentions, only to go conspicuously quiet when asked whether he has followed them through. Back in 1999, he announced that he was planning the first babies of the new millennium by performing a caesarean sections within the first few seconds of the new year. We never heard from him again on this issue.
But it is on the issue of reproductive cloning that he has become the master of wild promises. Antinori first announced his intention to produce the world's first clone in January 2001, claiming that he had ten couples waiting for treatment. He then said that work on human cloning would start in October of that year. Then he claimed that work would start in November and that he had 200 couples waiting for treatment. In November 2001, Antinori announced that he was planning to come to the UK to start work on human cloning, in part prompting the UK government to table emergency legislation outlawing human reproductive cloning. And then, in April of this year, Antinori announced that a woman on his cloning programme was eight weeks pregnant, not confirming that she was carrying a clone. As many journalists have pointed out this week, that woman should have delivered her baby by now. But Antinori won't comment, choosing instead to focus upon the woman who is, he claims, due to give birth in January.
It is perhaps no coincidence that, as we approach the holiday season, Antinori is making announcements to the media. With a paucity of news and politicians, scientists and other commentators away from their offices, he will have the perfect opportunity to dominate particularly the European media at a time when we're all happily ensconced in front of the television. Expect to see a lot of Antinori - but most likely very little of cloned babies - over the next month.