RAC advocates win a compromise

WASHINGTON - National Institutes of Health Director Harold Varmus has bowed to pressure from Capitol Hill and bioethics advocates and reversed his decision to abolish the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RAC). A Federal Register notice last week announced the decision, stating that Varmus "acknowledges the public's view that the RAC has historical importance as a societal platform for discussion of the science, as well as the safe and ethical conduct of gene therapy research."

Under Varmus's new proposal, the RAC would be slimmed down to 15 from the present 25 members. The members, who would be appointed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services or a designee (most likely the NIH Director), would include at least eight members with expertise in the fields of molecular genetics, molecular biology, recombinant DNA research, or related fields, and at