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President Bush Proposes Suspending Advanced Technology Program

NEW YORK, March 1 – President George W. Bush has proposed suspending a Department of Commerce program that has helped to support the development of innovative genomics technologies.

“The budget also suspends funding for the Advanced Technology Program which supports research and development activities of private firms, pending a reevaluation of this program,” the budget outline says.

If the proposal passes, the ATP would not make any new awards in 2001 or 2002. The ATP would, however, continue supporting ongoing projects using “reprogrammed” funds from ATP’s 2001 budget. The president has also recommended trimming the DOE and USDA budgets while only asking for a moderate increase in the NSF budget.

Some recipients expressed concern about President Bush’s decision to nix the ATP for the next couple of years. Richard Dweck, president of bioinformatics consultancy 3 rd Millennium, said that the ATP grants allow business to take the time to invest in far-out ideas that often lead to the development of important cutting-edge technology.

“These are the kind of grants that allow you to do the types of things you dream of doing if you had the time and the money to do them – to actually build something that gives a lot of value,” Dweck said. “We couldn’t just take $2 million and take a fly on an idea and see if we come up with something.”

3 rd Millennium was one of 54 winners of ATP grants last October, receiving $1.8 million to develop software for handling complex data relationships within genomics. 

Mosaic Technologies received $2.0 million to develop its high-throughput sequencing systems. A number of other genomics-related projects also received grants.

The ATP allocated $144 million for the 54 projects, which will receive an additional $130 million in private financing. The ATP traditionally allocates funds incrementally as some of the projects are killed before completion. 

The Department of Commerce was not immediately available for comment.

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