Magazine article Science News

Fine-Tuning Biotech Review, Regulation

Magazine article Science News

Fine-Tuning Biotech Review, Regulation

Article excerpt

Fine-tuning biotech review, regulation

At the recent meeting of the National Institutes of Health's Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC), the votes were: one yes, one no, one maybe.

The RAC agreed to exempt from special review experiments involving environmental release of organisms that have had genetic material deleted through engineering. The new rule extends a current exemption from the laboratory into the environment.

The releases may still come under review by other federal agencies; the change, according to Susan Gottesman of NIH, who proposed the amendment, will enable NIH to accept the authority of those other agencies in some cases.

The amendment's main purpose is as a reminder, Gottesman says, that "deletions happen all the time in nature. Because the NIG guidelines are directed toward biotechnology and its ability to make something unique, I felt this was an appropriate place to remind people that deletions are not unique." Under the revised guidelines, experiments like the controversial one involving release of "ice-minus" bacteria (SN: 6/7/86, p.366) probably would not come under RAC's review.

The RAC rejected a request by the Boston-based Committee for Responsible Genetics to permanently prohibit certain kinds of experiments in human gene therapy. The activist group wants to ban experiments in gene therapy that could alter germline cells, and therapies for disorders that are not "life-threatening or severely disabling. …

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