Dr. Martin J. Cline, the UCLA professor who this summer performed the first known genetic engineering experiments on humans, has temporarily given up his position as chief of the university's division of hematology and oncology.
Cline was asked to step down as chief by the chairman of the department of medicine at UCLA, Dr. David Solomon, who said yesterday he wanted to ensure that Cline is able to respond fully to questions that have been raised about the genetic research. He has not been asked to give up his faculty position.
The National Institutes of Health, the federal agency that funds a large part of the medical research in the United States, is now investigating the experiments, which were performed in July on two women in Italy and Israel, both of whom were suffering from a severe, hereditary blood disorder.
Later in the same month, a UCLA committee that must approve all human experiments at the school turned down Cline's request to perform similar experiments on the campus.
Cline insists that he did not attempt the experiment overseas in order to evade the decision of the UCLA committee, which was still pending at the time he left the country.
The human experiments have engendered a storm of scientific critcism, with a number of leading scientists in the field calling the work premature.
Cline and those he worked with in Israel and Italy agree that the benefits and risks of the experiments were uncertain. But they point out that the two patients were in the final stages of their disease with limited life expectancy.