WASHINGTON _ Although the language may seem benign, theNational Institutes of Health "reasonable pricing clause" is a wildcardthat threatens to disrupt the transfer of promising technology fromgovernment to private industry, officials told the Congressional JointEconomic Committee Friday.The clause calls for companies to show "a reasonable relationshipbetween the pricing of a licensed product, the public investment in thatproduct and the health and safety needs of the public."The language was inserted after nationwide controversy erupted overthe prices charged by Burroughs Wellcome Co., of Research TrianglePark, N.C., for AZT, the first significant AIDS drug. But biotechnologyfirms fear that the clause will deter investors who worry that the returnmight not justify the investment.M. James Barrett, chairman and CEO of Genetic Therapy Inc., told thecommittee that companies are becoming reluctant to enter intotechnology-transfer agreements with government for several reasons,among them:- The inflexibility of NIH in negotiating terms.- The narrow scope of licensing rights to any invention resulting from acollaboration between business and industry.- The fear that NIH investigators who are working with more than onecompany will share proprietary information. _ Steve Sternberg

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