The drug, interferon beta, is a type of protein with antiproliferative and antiviral properties. Among others, it may also be used to treat multiple sclerosis, a disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord.
The technology is jointly developed by the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in the Kansai region, the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization in Ibaraki Prefecture and Cosmo Bio, a reagent company in Tokyo.
Researchers created the hens through genome editing. First, genes that produce interferon beta are introduced into cells that become chicken sperm. The cells are then used to fertilize eggs that produce male chicks, The Japan News reported.
The male chicks are eventually crossbred with a number of females to produce eggs containing the drug. There are currently three hens that lay such eggs almost every day.
Interferon beta is relatively expensive, selling from ¥30,000 to ¥100,000 ($266 to $888) for only a few micrograms.
However, with the eggs set for the market, such a price is expected to drop significantly. Its earliest sale, as a research reagent, will be next year.
Researchers are hoping that the drug’s cost will be reduced to less than 10% of its current price in the future.