By Kim Coghill

Washington Editor

WASHINGTON ¿ The National Bioethics Advisory Commission (NBAC) established by former President Clinton completed what is likely to be its last act of official business when it forwarded recommendations involving human research to President Bush.

The recommendations follow a year of study and are part of the report, ¿Ethical and Policy Issues in Research Involving Human Participants.¿ The report calls for a new independent federal office to oversee research involving humans.

Clinton formed the 18-member NBAC in 1995 to provide advice and make recommendations to the National Science and Technology Council, the president and other government entities. The charter expires Oct. 3, and there¿s speculation that Bush will replace the Clinton group with his own committee headed by Leon Kass, a University of Chicago bioethicist.

Kass has been tapped by Bush to lead an advisory panel on stem cell research. Bush made the appointment Aug. 9 when he announced that the federal government would pay for research on 64 existing stem cell lines.

NBAC spokeswoman Jody Crank wouldn¿t say whether the commission had been notified that its services were no longer needed. She said it intends to work until the charter expires.

Marjorie Speers, NBAC¿s acting executive director, held a press conference Wednesday to discuss the report, at which time she said a key conclusion is that the federal oversight system should protect the rights and welfare of human research participants, regardless of whether the research is publicly or privately sponsored.

In order to accomplish that goal, ¿the NBAC recommends that there be a unified, comprehensive federal policy embodied in a single set of regulations and guidance.¿

Currently, 17 federal agencies involved in conducting or supporting human research abide by the Common Rule, a set of research regulations. The report does not suggest abolishing the Common Rule, but recommends that all groups, from sponsors to institutional review boards to investigators, follow the same standards.

Harold Shapiro, president emeritus and professor of economics and public affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, is the NBAC¿s chairman.