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Bush Expected to Support Genomics Sector Growth, Experts Say

BALTIMORE, Dec 21 – A Bush administration will continue to support growth in the genomics industry, genomics executives said Thursday, although some warned that the far right might try to restrict some forms of research.

“[President-elect George W.] Bush's business-friendly views are seen positively, but there's concern that the more extreme groups may be able to influence policy unreasonably,” said Michael Palfreyman, CEO of Psychiatric Genomics.

Palfreyman said he is particularly concerned about the ability to access medical histories associated with tissue and blood samples, which are used to study how genes are expressed under different circumstances.

“We don't need any personally identifying information, and our goal is to use the genetic information to benefit patients long term,” he said. “There's a huge motivation to do good in the industry, but there's a lot of criticism coming from people in the extreme wing who tend to take a non-scientific approach.”

While industry watchers wait for Bush to announce his appointment for director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, many executives pointed out that genomics research enjoys bipartisan support.

“I'm not losing a lot of sleep” about the transition, said Wayne Mitchell, vice president and chief informatics officer of Alameda, California-based TAO Biosciences. “Bush is talking tax cuts, but the NIH budget is a small fraction of the total.”

While campaigning, Bush pledged to support a 1999 plan to double the NIH budget in five years.

Jennie Hunter-Cevera, director of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute, said she was “upbeat and optimistic” despite the transition. She said Clinton administration officials told her that they were confident that programs linking academia with industry and government would continue under Bush.

“Science actually brings the parties together,” Hunter-Cevera said. “Seeking an AIDS vaccine, having a clean environment and more healthy food – these are missions that cross party lines.”

“Biotechnology has survived both Republican and Democratic administration, she said.

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