Recombinant DNA

All research that involves the use of recombinant or  synthetic nucleic acid molecules or organisms and viruses containing recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules must be registered with the Institutional Biosafety Committee.

Recombinant and synthetic nucleic acid molecules are defined by the NIH as (i) molecules that are constructed by joining nucleic acid molecules that can replicate in a living cell, (ii) nucleic acid molecules that are chemically or by other means synthesized or amplified, including those that are chemically or otherwise modified but can base pair with naturally occurring nucleic acid molecules, or (iii) molecules that result from the replication of those described in (i) or (ii) above. The NIH Guidelines specify practices and containment required for the construction and handling of rDNA molecules or organisms containing rDNA molecules.

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For more information on the IBC, contact the biosafety team (Matthew FischerSimone HoungJohn O'Neill, or Ronald McNeil) at 410-706-7055.

Human Gene Transfer Trials


The deliberate transfer of recombinant or synthetic nucleic acids, or DNA or RNA derived from recombinant or synthetic nucleic acids, into human research participants is defined by NIH as human gene transfer. PIs at UM must submit such work to the IBC for review and approval before research participants are enrolled. IBC approval is institution-specific, so PIs must submit for UMB IBC approval even if they are participating in multi-center clinical trials of human gene transfer and the IBCs of other institutions have granted approval. FDA approval of a recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid product does not exempt a research study from the IBC approval requirement.

NIH has provided the IBC clarification on the applicability of the NIH Guidelines to Human Gene Transfer trials, as follows:

Exempt from the NIH Guidelines:

  • Subunit vaccines (such as the Hepatitis B and the HPV vaccines) where no recombinant nucleic acid molecules are being delivered to a human, even though they were constructed using recombinant DNA technology.
  • Live attenuated or inactivated vaccines made from recombinant or re-assorted organisms created by natural recombination.  Example:  flu vaccines constructed by natural re-assortment in eggs.
  • Expanded Access, also referred to as “compassionate use.” Additional information on expanded access can be obtained from the FDA web site or by contacting the UMB Human Research Protections Office.

For more information on the NIH requirements for human gene transfer work, see the NIH FAQ web site.

Research Involving Recombinant DNA and Infectious Agents


In addition to human gene transfer protocols, the IBC requires registration and review of all laboratory research with recombinant DNA molecules as defined by the NIH Guidelines. Research conducted with non-recombinant microorganisms that are pathogenic to humans, plants, or animals as well as research using select agents also requires registration.

For more information on the NIH requirements for human gene transfer work, see the NIH FAQ Website. For more information on the IBC, contact the biosafety team (Matthew FischerSimone HoungJohn O'Neill, or Ronald McNeil) at 410-706-7055. Instructions for submission of research protocols for IBC review are found at the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC).

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