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SEN. KENNEDY WILL HOLD HEARING ON SHARING OF FEDERALLY FUNDED RESEARCH

Executive Summary

SEN. KENNEDY WILL HOLD HEARING ON SHARING OF FEDERALLY FUNDED RESEARCH by U.S. universities with foreign corporations, the Massachusetts Democrat said during floor debate on the NIH reauthorization bill (S 1) Feb. 16. Kennedy said he would hold hearings within the next two months on the "ethical issues involved in American taxpayers' research money being available to foreign companies," stating that testimony would be solicited from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and universities. Kennedy's assurance led Sen. Shelby (D-Ala.) to withdraw a proposed amendment to S 1 that would have prohibited domestic research groups from sharing data generated by federally funded research with foreign firms. Shelby's amendment, introduced Feb. 16, was cosponsored by Sens. Nickles (R-Okla.) and Helms (R-N.C.). The reauthorization bill cleared the Senate Feb. 17 after two full days of debate by a vote of 93-4. Senate interest in foreign companies' access to federally supported research restates an issue recently raised by Rep. Wyden (D-Ore.). In a Feb. 2 letter, Wyden questioned NIH Director Bernadine Healy about the agreement between the Sandoz and the Scripps Research Institute, which receives NIH funding ("The Pink Sheet" Feb. 8, p. 14). The Shelby proposed amendment to S 1 stipulated that "an institution of higher education may not permit the sharing of information derived from research and development activities conducted in whole or in part with funds received from the National Institutes of Health or the National Science Foundation with a foreign corporation...or a subsidiary of that corporation, prior to the time at which such information becomes publicly available." There can be absolutely no justification of this practice," Shelby declared in support of the measure. "The thrust of my [amendment] is to protect the taxpayer from subsidizing foreign corporations." Several senators questioned the intent and impact of the Shelby amendment. Sen. Sarbanes (D-Md.) asked whether a university would lose its funding if it shared information with a joint venture comprised of a U.S. company and a foreign company. Sen. Kassebaum (R-Kan.) requested "a period of time in which we could review" the various provisions. "I hope that we could have a series of hearings on this issue," she remarked. "I think we have to look at what the implications are for universities working in cooperation with U.S. subsidiaries...it is very important to be a little clearer about the definitions involved."

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