Gene therapy wins faint praise

WASHINGTON - Gene therapy has been over-hyped, false expectations of rapid progress have been raised, and NIH should shift its spending in the field to basic research, according to a report submitted to NIH Director Harold Varmus.

The report by an ad hoc committee appointed by Varmus to assess the NIH investment in gene therapy was presented last week at a meeting of the Advisory Committee to the Director.

Another committee presented a report assessing the activities of the NIH Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC).

The report on NIH investment concluded that although somatic gene therapy "offers extraordinary potential, in the long-term, for the management and correction of human disease," there have been few if any results achieved to date.

"While the expectations and the promise of gene therapy are great, clinical efficacy has not been definitively demonstrated at this time in any gene therapy protocol, despite anecdotal claims of successful therapy and the initiation of more than 100 Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC)-approved protocols," according to the report.

Science lacks maturity

The lack of results