UMass Amherst Researcher Helps Organize Major Meeting on Cloning Research and Policies

AMHERST, Mass. - James Robl, a professor of veterinary and animal sciences at the University of Massachusetts, is among the organizers for next week’s meeting of the International Embryo Transfer Society (IETS). Approximately 500 scientists from around the world will gather in Boston at the Copley Marriott from Sunday through Tuesday, Jan. 18-20, to present the latest research related to cloning and genetic engineering, as well as to discuss policy issues in this field. Attendees will include not just pioneers in the field of cloning, Robl says, but also many of the scientists responsible for advances in cloning and related technologies. The latest research developments, including both the vast number of legitimate uses of cloning and genetic engineering, will be discussed, along with the limitations of the technology.

This annual meeting represents the largest gathering held each year of scientists engaged in cloning and genetic engineering research, a field also called transgenics. Issues related to cloning and transgenics have made headlines in recent weeks, as a Chicago physicist claimed to be ready to begin human cloning - a potential use banned by several nations, and of great concern to the public and the scientific community, Robl says.

In response to public concern about the potential misuses of cloning technology, the federal government and many states have considered enacting legislation to regulate research. A workshop at 8 p.m., Monday, Jan. 19, will include a panel discussion on how developments in science lead to policy development. Ian Wilmut, of the Roslin Institute (the institute that cloned Dolly), will speak on "Discovery and Disclosure"; Larry Tye, a reporter for the Boston Globe, will discuss "The Media: Interest, Education and Interpretation for the Public"; Ben Wu, a staff member on the national Subcommittee on Technology and the House Committee on Science, will speak on "Legislation: The Ethical, Biological and Sociological Considerations in Policy Development"; and IETS president Caird Rexroad, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, will discuss "The Role of IETS in Policy Development."

IETS is the primary international forum for cloning and genetic engineering research. Other topics to be discussed will include the use of cloning to produce genetically modified animals for production of human proteins in milk, and the production of genetically modified cells and organs for transplantation into human beings.