Since the first officially sanctioned human gene-therapy trials in 1990, there has been alternating news of great breakthroughs and disappointing setbacks. The pace of progress has left many critics wondering if the promise of gene therapy has been oversold and if public oversight has been sufficient for trials using human subjects. Still others question whether the scientists themselves have become too godlike, claiming the right to patent and control the use of genetically engineered life forms. Defenders say gene therapy offers a potent weapon in the fight against disease. They predict that success will come soon if government regulators give scientists more freedom, if alarmists temper their apocalyptic and Orwellian rhetoric and if investors have patience as researchers master the fundamentals needed for safe and successful treatments.