Letter from Harold Varmus to John Z. Bowers, Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation
In this letter Varmus lays out his research plans for his sabbatical year (1978-79) in Mike Fried's laboratory at the
Imperial Cancer Research Fund in London, namely the study of integration sites of mouse mammary tumor virus in mouse cells,
and of mutants of avian leukosis viruses whose oncogene has been deleted (so-called deletion mutants). The letter also highlights
the response of scientists to guidelines on recombinant DNA research recently issued by the National Institutes of Health.
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1977-10-19 (October 19, 1977)
Bowers, John Z.
Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation
Original Repository: University of California, San Francisco. Archives and Special Collections. Harold E. Varmus Papers
Reproduced with permission of the Regents of the University of California.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Fellowships and Scholarships
[Career summary and research proposal sent to the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation] [19 October 1977]
Thank you for your letter of October 13. Frankly, it was my first news of Michael Stoker's new job, and I have written
to him, asking for the confirmation you requested.
As I explained in the preamble to my peculiar research plan, my activities were likely to be determined in part by circumstances.
Since I wrote the plan, the writing on the wall seems clearer. I have had considerable difficulty obtaining the necessary
reagents for the hepatitis work, and my realistic assessment is that little or no work will be done on this project until
I return to San Francisco in mid-1979. Secondly, I have been corresponding with Mike Fried at ICRF about the feasibility
of initiating the molecular cloning experiments in London. The bureaucratic obstacles appear large and cannot be overcome
from this distance. For the moment, my plan is to ask after I arrive for permission to do one experiment -- cloning of mouse
mammary tumor virus integration sites from mouse cells, using a polyoma vector. This experiment has many virtues from a biological
point of view, and the additional virtue of utilizing Mike Fried's expertise with the polyoma system. The rest of the
cloning plans will presumably await NIH certification of the newly-recommended guidelines for recombinant DNA research; these
new guidelines would allow us to proceed with most or all of the proposed cloning experiments, using plasmid vectors, in our
local P3 facilities. As a result of the above difficulties, I am planning to pursue most actively the plans to generate deletion
mutants of avian leukosis viruses. This project has the advantage of integrating me most fully into life at ICRF (both with
Mike Fried as advisor in making deletion mutants and with the RNA tumor virologists as consultants about the biology of leukosis
viruses). Moreover, I think the feasibility of these studies is very clear, and their potential applicability to several
aspects of my research program very appealing.
I hope this explanation helps to clear the muddy waters.