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EU Expected to Give Big Boost to Genomics Research in Upcoming Budget

STRASBOURG, France, Nov. 14 – The European Commission is expected to give the genomics industry a large financial boost in its 2002 – 2006 research and development budget currently being debated in the European Parliament, an EC spokeswoman said Wednesday. 

Andrea Dahmen said she expected the European parliament to agree to earmark 1.1 billion euros ($968 million) exclusively for genomics and biotech research, up from zero in the 1998 – 2002 budget.

“The last time the European parliament debated the research budget, genomics wasn’t even on the agenda,” Dahmen told GenomeWeb. “It didn’t seem to be such a big issue.”

The EC initiates policies for the European Union, bringing proposals for all new legislation to the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers.

The debate currently taking place in the European Parliament represents the first reading of the EC-initiated Sixth Framework Program for Research and Development.

After the parliament agrees on the budgetary outline it will go to Europe’s Council of Ministers and then back to parliament for a second reading. The back and forth process will continue until the council and parliament agree on the budget.

Dahmen said she did not expect a final decision on the research and development budget until June of next year.

The proposed increase for genomics and biotech falls far short of what the EC's European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin originally requested. He had proposed that 2.0 billion euros out of a proposed 17.5-billion-euro research and development budget be earmarked exclusively for genomics and biotech, areas that could help researchers to uncover the fundamental basis of human health and disease. 

“The proposal for the budget was the result of almost a year of consultations with scientists and industry experts,” Dahmen said. “Biotech and genetics seemed to us one of the areas of cutting-edge research.”

That request, however, was opposed by some members of parliament, who argued that less money should be targeted for genomics, in order to make more funds available for research into major diseases, such as cancer, AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.

Gerard Caudron, a French member of the parliament, had suggested earmarking 1.3 billion euros for genomics and biotech and an additional 1.2 billion euros for research into major diseases.  

Dahmen said that she now expected the parliament to accept Busquin’s compromise, which would make 1.1 billion available for genomics and biotech and an additional 1.05 billion euros available for disease research.

“I believe that this proposal will be accepted,” Dahmen said.

Dahmen said the EU would make the funds available to researchers through shared-cost agreements.  

The European Union’s 1998 – 2002 research and development budget totaled 14.9 billion euros.

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