Letter from U.S. Representative Ray Thornton to Daniel Nathans
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1977-03-18 (March 18, 1977)
United States House of Representatives. Committee on Science and Technology
Original Repository: Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives. Daniel Nathans Collection
This item is in the public domain. It may be used without permission.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Restriction Enzymes and the "New Genetics," 1970-1980
Testimony before the House Subcommittee on Science, Research, and Technology. March 30, 1977. Daniel Nathans, Professor and
Director, Department of Microbiology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (March 30, 1977)
March 18, 1977
Dear Dr. Nathans:
I would like to invite you to appear as a witness before the Subcommittee on Science, Research and Technology. As Dr. James
McCullough of the Congressional Research Service explained to you on our behalf, this hearing is part of the first series
of hearings on the science policy implications of the DNA recombinant molecule research issue. It is scheduled for 9:30 a.m.
on March 30, 1977 in room 2318 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
We hope to obtain an overview of the biology of DNA recombinant molecule research during this initial series of hearings.
We would like the participants in this session to work as a panel to reach that objective. Fundamental questions which we
hope to address would include but not be limited to such points as: How does the scientific community perceive the risks versus
the benefits of DNA recombinant molecule research? How can the risks of DNA recombinant molecule research be weighted against
the benefits in the course of making policy decisions regarding the conduct of that research? What factors are of primary
importance in making this evaluation? What methodologies in the area of biological risk/benefit analysis are available or
under development? To what degree are both the charges of risk and the claims of benefits speculative? How can policy makers
distinguish between speculation and reasonable assessment? What benefits will accrue from the research, and to whom? Would
changes in patent policies be necessary or desirable from the point of view of commercial firms which want either to conduct
or to reap the benefits from DNA recombinant research? What are the long-range science policy implications of decisions now
being made with regard to the risks and benefits of DNA recombinant research?
In order to help you plan for your participation, we would like you to consider your role on the panel to be primarily directed
toward an objective analysis of the risks you perceive from this research from your perspective as a biomedical research investigator.
As other members of your panel, we have asked Dr. Ronald Cape of Cetus Corporation to discuss his views as a potential commercial
developer of DNA recombinant molecule technologies; Dr. Ethan Singer of MIT to analyze the risks for application of the DNA
technologies in food and agriculture; Dr. Liebe Cavalieri of the Sloan-Kettering Institute to discuss the overall risks of
applying recombinant DNA technologies; and Dr. David Baltimore of MIT's Center for Cancer Research to summarize the risks/benefits
debate from his long involvement in this issue.
The first day of these hearings on March 29 will be devoted to an explanation of DNA recombinant molecule research, including
discussions of physical and biological containment. The third day, March 31, will be devoted to an explanation of the NIH
guidelines, the environmental impact statement, patent policies, and the international aspects of this issue, among other
Your oral presentation should be limited to approximately 10 minutes in order that the Members of the Subcommittee will have
the opportunity to ask questions. You are welcome to propose for introduction into the printed hearing record any additional
testimony you feel will amplify your statement, or to provide additional illustrations regarding other pertinent issues. Each
of the other panelists will be provided similar opportunities, and it is hoped that free discussion following all presentations
will highlight points of interest to the Subcommittee.
We have enclosed some additional information concerning testimony preparation, transcript review and reimbursement for travel
expenses if appropriate. A copy of the recent Committee print, "Genetic Engineering, Human Genetics, and Cell Biology:
Evolution of Technological Issues -- DNA Recombinant Molecule Research," is also enclosed. If you have any additional
questions regarding this invitation or your appearance before the Subcommittee, please contact Dr. Gail Pesyna of the Committee
staff (phone 202 225-8109).