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Rosovsky Tries to Ease Fears About Recombinant-DNA Lab

By Marc M. Sadowsky

Dean Rosovsky yesterday tried to quell the fears of the people of Cambridge that a proposed recombinant DNA laboratory would produce Frankenstein-like monsters, saying that the hazards are "entirely acceptable" to procede with construction of the lab.

"I'm also one of the persons in Cambridge, and I am not a scientist," Rosovsky said yesterday at a Science Center press conference. "I feel responsible for the students, the faculty, and everyone connected with our faculty in Cambridge," he added.


Rosovsky announced his decision to okay the project on Monday. That night, the Cambridge City Council voted to hold a hearing on the proposed lab, which is slated to be on the fourth floor of the Biological Laboratories with the next to highest safety precautions for research facilities.

Researchers plan to use the lab to study the control mechanism of DNA by transplanting genes from warm-blooded animals into E-coli, a common bacteria.

Comparing himself to a patient approving an operation, Rosovsky said he had tried "to get the best and most competent advice" before making the decision.

"These experiments are already going on throughout the Greater Boston area," Rosovsky said, adding that "if the hazards are greater than I believe, then the hazards have already been created. I don't believe that to be the case."

Commenting on the opposition of two prominent Harvard biologists, Ruth Hubbard, professor of Biology and George Wald, Higgins Professor of Biology to the proposed lab, Rosovsky said, "Their views are in a small minority within the community. There are lots of other people who are as competent as Professor Hubbard and Professor Wald who feel differently."

He also said that the real problem is the gap between what he thinks is a good plan and human failing. "The issue the public should concentrate on is the issue of policing and supervision--to make sure not just that we have an excellently designed facility but that it is operated up to an extremely high level of performance," he said.

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