Somerville Officials to Discuss Regulations on DNA Research

Somerville officials will consider adopting regulations on DNA research modelled on a three-year-old Cambridge statute at a meeting tomorrow, in the wake of an announcement from Genetic Institute that it would set up a laboratory in the city.

The lab, slated for a Beacon St. site near the Cambridge line, will be used for research and not for the small-scale manufacturing planned for another firm's proposed Cambridge facility, Mark Ptashne, professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and a Genetics Institute official, said yesterday.

Ptashne said the firm would "follow all the guidelines" the city set up.

Somerville mayor Eugene Brune and a Somerville alderman, Frank Bakey, will hold a public hearing on the issue tomorrow night, Ed Bean, Brune's press secretary, said yesterday. He added that Brune would also submit an ordinance patterned after Cambridge's statute to the aldermen tomorrow night.

Scary Monsters

Though he stressed the ordinance had not yet been drafted, Bean said it would probably also mandate compliance with National Institues of Health guidelines. He added it might also go beyond the Cambridge ordinance by banning work done at the more dangerous P-3 and P-4 levels of containment.

"The citywide meeting has been called because of obvious concerns about the possible deleterious effects to health that could result from this work," Bean said.

He added that the firm had agreed to allow city inspection of the laboratories every three months and had agreed to pay the fee a consultant would charge for the inspection.

"We've had several meetings with the Genetics Institute people," Bean said.

Ptashne said the firm would like to begin operations as soon as possible. "When we start depends on how long it takes to renovate" the Reliable Silver factory which will be used for the laboratory, he added.

He said he did not know about city plans to limit work in the P-3 or P-4 containment levels, adding that he could not comment on the proposed restrictions until he had learned more about them.

Bean said the DNA issue had generated little interest in Somerville. "Mayor Brune has not received any phone calls," he said. The guidelines were the subject of intense debate in Cambridge in 1977