February 11, 2002

UCSD’s Theodore Friedmann Named Chair
Of NIH Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee

Theodore C. Freidmann, M.D.

Theodore C. Friedmann, M.D., professor of pediatrics, Muriel Jeannette Whitehill Chair in Biomedical Ethics, and director, UCSD Program in Human Gene Therapy, has been named chair of the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

RAC, a 21-member committee composed of scientists, clinical investigators, ethicists, and public policy experts, serves a critical role in the oversight of federally funded research involving recombinant DNA technology -- the modification of organisms and tissue to express specific genes. These techniques are used in clinical trials evaluating the potential of human gene transfer, which is the insertion of genetically modified tissue into humans for therapeutic purposes. The NIH is responsible for oversight of all human gene therapy trials in the United States that involve the use of NIH resources.

RAC’s major role is to evaluate all protocols for clinical trials involving the transfer of genetically modified tissue into humans. The committee also considers safety standards, potential hazards and methods for monitoring and minimizing risks associated with recombinant DNA research, and advises the NIH director and staff on related issues and activities.

The chair and members of RAC are appointed by the director of the NIH. Established in 1974, RAC developed a set of guidelines on the safe and ethical conduct of recombinant DNA research, first published in 1976 and revised periodically since then. Compliance with the guidelines is mandatory for investigators at institutions receiving NIH funds for research involving recombinant DNA.

From 1999-2001, Friedmann was a member of the California Cloning Commission, which presented its findings to Governor Grey Davis and the State Legislature in January 2002. He was chair of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Committee on Germ Line Genetic Modification that concluded in its published report in September 2000 that genetic alterations aimed at improvement of future generations cannot be undertake safely with current technology. Friedmann also served on the U.S. Congressional Biomedical Ethics Advisory Committee.

For most of his scientific career, Friedmann has been developing the concepts and tools of human gene therapy. In 1972 he and one of his colleagues published a landmark paper which proposed the use of viruses to carry normal genes into defective cells and identified some of the medical, ethical and public policy problems posed by modern genetic technology. He and his colleagues have made many central technical contributions to the field of gene therapy, particularly the design and preparation of gene transfer virus vectors and their use in disease models to correct genetic defects in the brain and other organs.

Friedmann is on the editorial boards of a number of scientific journals and editor and author of books on genetics and gene therapy, including The Development of Human Gene Therapy, published by the Cold Spring Harbor Press in 1999.

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Media contact:
Sue Pondrom

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