A WEALTHY lawyer who has spent £300,000 in an effort to clone his dead baby son has resolved to invest in a new scientific team after authorities last week closed down the laboratory working on the dead child's tissue.
Mark Hunt, 41, was grief-stricken after his 10- month-old son Andrew died two years ago following botched surgery to repair a congenital hole in his heart. He has resolved to "spend every dime I have" to get a carbon copy of the dead child.
Hunt, a would-be Democrat politician who runs a "Hunt for Congress" office in his home state of West Virginia, is the first person to declare a serious intention to clone a dead individual and to put money into the attempt.
Using damages he received from the hospital involved in his son's death he invested in a secret laboratory in a disused school building in Nitro, near Charleston, West Virginia.
However, the laboratory's team, led by Brigitte Boisselier, a scientist from the obscure Raelian religious cult which believes that human cloning is the route to mankind's salvation, agreed to shut down the laboratory after pressure from the American government.
Hunt, who was paying Boisselier £3,000 a month for the project, has lost faith in her team. Last week he was holidaying in California, where he was said to be too distressed to comment. However, he has agreed to talk about his grief and desperation in a television interview in America on Friday.
Hunt is searching for a scientist to take the project forward, even though he and his wife Tracy had another baby only weeks ago. Greg Casto, manager of the laboratory building, said Hunt told him: "I will spend every dime I have to get my son back."
When Casto told Hunt he could never recreate the same son, Hunt replied: "At least I will have one who looks like him."
In a letter to a US congressional committee investigating human cloning, he wrote: "I could not accept that it was over for our child. Not since Jesus Christ spoke to Lazarus and told him to come forth from the grave has a human being been able to bridge the great gulf between life and death. I hoped and prayed my son would be the first."
Reproductive cloning is not technically illegal in Britain, but anyone discovered working on such a research project would be automatically stopped and cast out of the scientific community.
However, one senior British embryologist said last week: "There are plenty of people here who would be interested. I have played around with embryos after hours."