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SENATE HEARING ON GENE PATENTING ETHICAL ISSUES CONVENES SEPT. 22

Executive Summary

SENATE HEARING ON GENE PATENTING ETHICAL ISSUES CONVENES SEPT. 22 with testimony scheduled by witnesses including Sen. Hatfield (R-Ore.), National Institutes of Health Director Bernadine Healy, MD, and Genentech VP David Beier. The hearing will be held by the Senate Judiciary/Patents Subcommittee, chaired by Sen. DeConcini (D-Ariz.). Hatfield, the Senate Appropriations Committee's top Republican, is scheduled as the hearing's lead witness. In April, he drafted a floor amendment to the NIH reauthorization that would have placed a moratorium on the patenting of genetically- engineered organisms. Hatfield withdrew the amendment in return for the promise of hearings on relevant social and ethical issues ("The Pink Sheet" April 6, p. 14). NIH's patent applications covering 2,375 complementary DNA processes are among the actions that sparked Hatfield's concerns, and they are expected to be a key topic for the hearing. The applications cover partial gene sequences that may be sequenced by the Human Genome Project. Other scheduled witnesses are Sen. Domenici (R-N.M.), Oregon Biotechnology Association officer William Noonan and Foundation on Economic Trends Counsel Andrew Kimbrell. Founded by Jeremy Rifkin, FOET has styled itself as a watchdog group to ensure that ethical concerns are addressed as gene research proceeds. Genentech's Beier will testify on behalf of both the Industrial Biotechnology Association and the Association of Biotechnology Companies. Also scheduled to testify is Craig Venter, PhD, chairman and president of the Institute for Genomic Research and a former NIH researcher with expertise in the development of automated gene sequencing technology. Venter was a section chief and lab chief at the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke until he joined the Institute for Genomic Research at its founding this summer. The Institute is being backed with $70 mil. from the venture capital group Healthcare Investment Corp. ("The Pink Sheet" July 13, p. 14).
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