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Japanese chickens are now laying an expensive cancer drug ingredient

A prohibitively expensive cancer drug could soon be much cheaper for patients thanks to "mutant" Japanese chickens, Newsweek reports.

Scientists in Japan have edited chickens' genomes to make the birds lay eggs containing a protein called Interferon, which typically costs between $250 and $900 per several micrograms when manufactured without a magic hen. The Japanese chickens, though, cut the costs: Every one to two days, the hens lay an egg containing the key ingredient to combating malignant skin cancer as well as hepatitis and multiple sclerosis.

"As early as next year, a joint research company plans to sell the drug as a research reagent at a price about half that of the conventional product," The Japan News writes. "Eventually, they hope to lower the price to less than 10 percent of the current level."

"This is a result that we hope leads to the development of cheap drugs," explained Osaka University professor Hironobu Hojo. "In the future, it will be necessary to closely examine the characteristics of the agents contained in the eggs and determine their safety as pharmaceutical products."

The success of the mutant eggs could save many lives: "Research last year found that 1 in 5 cancer patients will stop taking a life-saving drug due to an inability to pay for it," Newsweek writes.