The origin and utility of recombinant DNA, Paul Berg
Interviewee: Paul Berg.
Paul Berg discusses the usefulness of recombinant DNA to isolate and study genes.
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And that is the critical step, the recognition that you could take a complex mixture of a million different pieces of DNA and separate them physically one from another by putting them into a bacterial cell and allow the bacteria to amplify them. That's the origin of recombinant DNA, the real utility of recombinant DNA was the ability to cut pieces of DNA up with restriction enzymes, join them to a plasmid, put them into a bacterium and then separate the bacteria so you had different pieces of DNA.
Paul Berg's student, Janet Mertz, planned an experiment that would recombine DNA from a monkey virus with DNA from a bacterium that lives in the human gut. Berg describes colleague Bob Pollack's outrage at this.
In 1974, scientists in the field of recombinant DNA drafted a letter calling upon "scientists throughout the world" to suspend certain types of studies until hazards could be assessed. Paul Berg talks about the "Moratorium Letter."