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Proposed DOE Budget Cuts Threaten Planned Genomes to Life Project

WASHINGTON, March 29 – Cutting the Department of Energy’s budget could prevent the launch of the “Genomes to Life” initiative originally scheduled to begin in 2002, Daniel Drell, a senior official at the DOE's Office of Biological and Environmental Research, said Thursday.

Although OBER Director Ari Patrinos has pledged to protect genomics research as much as possible, President George W. Bush has proposed trimming the DOE’s 2002 budget while new spending initiatives in non-research areas are being launched, indicating that genomics spending will face a tight squeeze.

"It's making it very difficult," Drell told guests at a seminar entitled “The New Biology: Challenges and Opportunities,” at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The “Genomes to Life” initiative is a planned 10-year, $200 million per year effort to understand how gene expression and regulation determines the behavior and response of biological systems, from cells to organisms.

President George W. Bush has proposed cutting the DOE’s budget by 3.6 percent to $19 billion, from $19.7 billion in fiscal year 2001. Bush has also proposed trimming the United States Department of Agriculture’s budget and instituting a small 2.3 percent increase in the National Science Foundation’s spending package.

Addressing policymakers at the seminar, Eric Lander, director of the Center for Genome Research at MIT's Whitehead Institute, put in a public plug for the science agencies shortchanged in the budget plan. Although his own funding comes from NIH, slated for a 14 percent increase, “I'm worried about the rest of the science budget,” he said.

DOE officials are hoping that congressional champions such as Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) will be able to help restore some of the threatened funding, "but we don't have as many champions as NIH," Drell said.

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