Some of the most important people involved with genetic engineering
in the United States--scientists, corporate and foundation executives,
politicians, journalists, scholars and others--will gather for
three-day invitational meeting to assess the history and prospects
of regulatory policy in the US regarding genetic engineering.
The event is being held on the 25th anniversary of the 1975
at Asilomar at which scientists imposed a short voluntary moratorium
on recombinant DNA research in order to assess safety hazards.
1975 Asilomar conference has been variously seen as an act of
responsible scientific leadership, as an unnecessary concession
exaggerated public fears, and as a tactical move to discourage
oversight of genetic engineering.
The Chair of the events planning committee for the 25th anniversary
meeting is Alexander Capron, codirector of the Pacific Center
Health Policy and Ethics at the USC Law Center. Other planning
committee members are Paul Berg, director of Stanford University's
Beckman Center for Molecular and Genetic Medicine; David Baltimore,
president of the California Institute of Technology; Maxine
president of the Carnegie Institution; Dorothy Nelkin of NYU;
Kevles of Cal Tech; and Joshua Lederberg of Rockefeller University.
Speakers include Harold Shapiro, Chair of the National Bioethics
Advisory Commission; Sheldon Krimsky of Tufts University; Rebecca
Goldburg of the Environmental Defense Fund; Troy Duster of NYU;
Harold Varmus, former NIH Director; US Senator Edward Kennedy;
Nicholas Wade of the New York Times; and Gordon Conway of the
A session on "Somatic and Germline Gene Therapy,"
chaired by Inder
Verma of the Salk Institute, is described as follows:
"While research on somatic cell gene transfer for medical
(so-called `gene therapy') has been carried out for more than
decade, the prevailing wisdom is that germ-line therapy ought
to be undertaken. Is that view still valid? How can risks be
evaluated when the `experimental animal' is inevitably human?
Are such risks solely a personal matter or do potential effects
for society count as well?"