Pointing to a few empty chairs in a conference room, moderator David T. Curiel joked that a symposium on emerging nonviral vectors was a "failure" compared to other packed talks at the American Society of Gene Therapy's inaugural meeting last month. The director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham's gene therapy program also noted that viral vectors have generated more research activity than nonviral vectors. However, nonviral backers think their delivery vehicles for therapeutic genetic material promise greater impact in the future. And even some pioneers of viral vectors attending the Seattle meeting agreed.

EASILY ADAPTABLE: The chemical flexibility of nonviral systems means they are easier to modify, explains the University of Pittsburgh's Leaf Huang.
For now, the gene therapy arena remains divided. "The field will remain bifurcated for many years," W. French Anderson, professor and director of the Gene Therapy Laboratories, University of Southern California School of Medicine...

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