SYMPOSIA PAPER Published: 01 January 1990

Biotechnology Facility Approval at the Local Level: The Cambridge, Massachusetts, Experience


In 1976 the citizens of Cambridge, Massachusetts, were concerned that the construction and operation of a laboratory intended for research with recombinant DNA (rDNA) material would pose a threat to public health and safety. The mayor of Cambridge initiated public hearings on the issue, which led to the formation of a Cambridge Experimentation Review Board, made up primarily of lay citizens. After lengthy hearings the group recommended a city ordinance that made the National Institutes of Health (NIH) guidelines on recombinant DNA technology the law in Cambridge. A Cambridge Biohazards Committee (CBC) was created to monitor compliance by the universities with the NIH guidelines. Later a permit structure was introduced. Companies requesting permits follow an application process which includes presentations to the CBC, site visits of the laboratories by the CBC, and periodic reinspection. Siting in the city is in accordance with zoning regulations for light industry. Cooperation has been good. Twenty-four permits have now been issued for research and pilot facilities. There are no rDNA manufacturing facilities in the city of Cambridge because of its population density and the expense of land and buildings.

Author Information

Chalfen, MH
, City of Cambridge, MA
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Developed by Committee: E48
Pages: 158–161
DOI: 10.1520/STP26080S
ISBN-EB: 978-0-8031-5115-4
ISBN-13: 978-0-8031-1264-3