Original Repository: Stanford University Libraries. Department of Special Collections and University Archives. Paul Berg Papers
Reproduced with permission of Paul Berg.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Recombinant DNA Technologies and Researchers' Responsibilities, 1973-1980
Letter from Patricia Berg to Paul Berg (February 5, 1974)
February 11, 1974
Dear Dr. Berg,
I have a great many reservations about the experiment you propose and a great deal of thought should be given to possible
hazardous consequences. That's not to say that there are such consequences but very frankly, cutting up HSV DNA and randomly
inserting it into a [lambda] phage DNA may well generate something quite nasty as well as what you want. If one could manage
to isolate just the tk or a small piece of DNA containing the tk, the insertion of that piece of DNA into a phage or plasmid
carrier would certainly be preferable. I don't know Bernie Rotman's cell culture set up and therefore can't commment
on the adequacy of the containment features for E. coli; they may very well be adequate but I suspect that large scale growth
or phage will ultimately be the goal and that's where I have serious reservations about containment.
My own prejudice (and it is only a prejudice at present) is to call a moratorium on such experiments pending a conference
I expect to call (very likely next Fall or early Winter) to explore the ramifications and possible dangers (if any) to such
experiments. But most important such a conference can consider whether any kind of controls are necessary or possible to
prevent an unwanted director.
I can't expect that my prejudice is enforceable but you did ask my opinion. And that is, I would not do that experiment
Of course, if there is such a Conference, you and Bernie would be invited to participate.