WASHINGTON -- The most troublesome terms for the biotechnology industry have been lifted from the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT).

The international agreement, which will probably be signed shortly, would have forced companies working with federal research dollars to develop new products to divulge their corporate secrets to the GATT office. GATT, in turn, would have been required to provide other signatories with information on U.S. research subsidies.

To qualify for tariff-free trade, subsidies would have been limited to 25 percent for applied research and 50 percent for basic research.

These requirements would have applied to all new technologies and would have thwarted President Clinton's policy of encouraging partnerships between government and industry.

But "they have rewritten the whole thing," a Capitol Hill source told BioWorld. "Fundamental research is now 100 percent OK for government to fund without having to worry about countervailing duties I Applied research is now 75 percent OK to fund."

A new category, "competitive development," allows 50 percent government funding. It includes "translation into practice of plans, blueprints or designs, up to and including the first prototype (which cannot be used)."

These provisions will be reconsidered in 18 months, after which there will be an opportunity to make changes.

The old agreement had been opposed by the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), acting National Institutes of Health Director Ruth Kirschstein, 21 legislators led by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., and various other agencies. -- David C. Holzman

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.