Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Are goats really green?

Has the green machine lost his mind thanking old Billy for helping save the planet. I started thinking of goats a couple of weeks ago when I received this email at work that a company in Framingham Massachusetts has received FDA approval for a biological drug that was recovered from goat’s milk in genetically modified goats. The drug is a protein called Antithrombrin and is used to untangle blood clots. There are approximately one in five thousand patients in the USA that have a genetic disorder of not producing antithrombrin and are at high risk during surgeries or pregnancy. The company chose the route of using genetically modified goats rather than modifying ecoli or Chinese Hamster Ovary cells to express the protein. Ecoli and Chinese Hampster Ovary cells are commonly used to make biological drugs that Genentech, Amgen, J&J and other sell.

A herd of one hundred and fifty genetically modified goats in Massachusetts express the two hundred and twenty pounds of Antithrombrin protein that otherwise would otherwise have to be produced from every drop of blood that is donated in the USA each year. These are very special goats and I bet you they have special herders who make sure they do not escape from their farm where they are fed better food than your average goat. A female goat produces about eight pounds of milk a day and will do so for approximately three hundred day during lactation. Therefore a single goat will produce two thousand four hundred pounds of milk a year. The herd of one hundred and fifty goats will therefore produce three hundred and sixty thousand pounds of milk a year. The concentration of the Antithrombrin protein in the goat’s milk prior to purification is therefore 0.061 percent or about 0.6 grams per liter. Goats were chosen over cows, sheep and rabbits because of their productivity in producing milk. Goats also are far lower emitters of methane gas than cows.

I recently co-authored an article in Biopharm International that compared the carbon and water footprints of traditional stainless steel biological drug manufacturing facilities with single use plastic alternates. The single use plastic systems had significantly lower water usage and moderately lower carbon footprint. Now that the goat method is FDA approved I will have to research the data, but my hunch is that this method will be hard to beat as goats thrive in arid climates even though they have sweat glands. Goats are raised for their meat as well as their milk. Goat’s milk is naturally homogenized and the cream remains suspended in the milk and does not rise as does cow’s cream, hence we do not have goat cream but we can produce goat butter.The meat from young goats is called kid, while older animals yield mutton or chevon, not to be mixed up with Chevron.

Goat meat is low in cholesterol and is comparable to chicken. The digestive system of goats is able to breakdown just about any organic fodder but they do prefer the tips of trees and woody shrubs. Their favorite hay is alfalfa and therefore goats would vote for Gore over any other politician. As global warming starts to convert Texas into Sudan we may have to start eating more chevon and chevre. If Texas does become Sudan, its capital will be called car-tomb and the state name will change to Sedan.