Letter from Maxine Singer and Dieter Soll to Philip Handler
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ca. 21 June 1973
National Academy of Sciences (U.S.)
Original Repository: Stanford University Libraries. Department of Special Collections and University Archives. Paul Berg Papers
This item is in the public domain. It may be used without permission.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Recombinant DNA Technologies and Researchers' Responsibilities, 1973-1980
Letter from Maxine Singer to participants in the 1973 Gordon Conference on Nucleic Acids (June 21, 1973)
Dear Doctor Handler:
Several of the scientific reports presented at this year's Gordon
Research Conference on Nucleic Acids (June 11-15, 1973, New Hampton,
New Hampshire) indicated that we presently have the technical ability to
join together, covalently, DNA molecules from diverse sources. Scientific
developments over the past two years make it both reasonable and convenient
to generate over overlapping sequence homologies between DNAs of, for example,
bacteria and animal viruses. Such sequence homologies can then be used in
order to combine the diverse molecules by Watson-Crick hydrogen bonding.
Application of existing methods then permits covalent linkage of such
molecules. In this way new kinds of viruses with biological activity of
unpredictable nature may eventually be created.
Certain of these hybrid molecules are potentially hazardous to both
laboratory workers and the public. This possibility was recognized and
agreed upon by a majority of those attending the Conference, who voted to
communicate their concern to you and to the President of the National
Academy of Medicine (to whom this letter is also being sent). We suggest
that the Academies establish a study committee of appropriate individuals
to consider this problem and to recommend specific actions or guidelines
should that seem necessary. Related problems such as the risks involved
in current large-scale preparation of animal viruses might also be
A list of participants in the Conference is attached for your interest.