In what some industry observers liken to biotechnology's early days of scientific hope mixed with public pessimism, gene therapy has come under the scope of scrutiny at the National Institutes of Health. A much-publicized December panel report commissioned by NIH director Harold Varmus lambastes companies' use of clinical trials to lure investors; urges stringent peer review of gene therapy protocols; calls for more basic research; and warns that "overselling of the industry" could cause a backlash from disappointed investors and the public.

Arbno Motulsky Caution: Panel cochairman Arno Motulsky says gene therapy "has great promise" but notes "many hurdles it needs to overcome."

Just how funding of-and feelings toward-gene therapy will be affected by the "Report and Recommendations of the Panel to Assess the NIH Investment in Research on Gene Therapy" (accessible via the Internet at remains to be seen. Researchers say the report-which also praised gene therapy's long-term potential-will...

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