WASHINGTON -- Lowell Weicker, governor of Connecticut, iskicking off the National Biotechnology Summit here thismorning with the message, "It's Your Health and the Economy,Stupid!" That message is directed at Bill Clinton, who isdragging his feet on biotechnology, Bill Small, chief executive ofBioconferences International Inc. of Bethesda, Md., toldBioWorld.

BioEast '94 also starts today, and the International Conferenceon Gene Therapy & Vaccines for Cancer will convene onWednesday, for a combined total of 88 sessions.

The summit has two objectives. The first is to issue a reportthat will call for a national biotechnology policy, "an industrialpolicy for the first time since the space race," Small toldBioWorld. The second objective is to develop an educationalagenda that will prepare citizens, students and workers for the"biotechnology revolution."

The need for such a policy is pressing, Small said. Japan, HongKong and Singapore each has declared it will dominate the fieldby the millennium, so the U.S. has much to lose if it fails to act.

To this end, 100 leaders of government, academia and industrywere asked to attend the summit, which unlike the other twoconferences is invitation-only. But demand was so high amongmovers and shakers that the guest list has doubled.

Yet the White House appears to be ignoring biotechnology,Small said. Both Vice President Al Gore and his domestic policyadviser and biotechnology point man, Greg Simon, declinedinvitations to speak. "I personally asked Greg if he would liketo attend, and he's too busy," said Small. "He's known about thisfor months."

Nonetheless, White House science adviser John Gibbons isgiving the keynote speech and "leaders from every (federal)agency that has anything to do with biotechnology will bethere," as well as from Capitol Hill, said Small. "This is nottrickle down, it's trickle up. It has to get (the White House's)attention."

The conference is sponsored by the International Federationfor the Advancement of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology,and Genetic Engineering News. A coalition of 25-30 cosponsors,such as the Federation of American Societies for ExperimentalBiology and the American Microbiological Society, representsabout half a million scientists, engineers and geneticists.

Scientists from more than 30 countries will be attending theInternational Conference on Gene Therapy. Total attendance forthe three meetings is expected to exceed 2,000.

In addition to the conference, on Thursday five scientists,including French Anderson, will discuss issues emerging inhuman gene therapy for 90 minutes live via satellite on thePublic Broadcasting Service. The program will be downlinked tosites all over North America so that participants at remote sitescan call or fax questions to the scientists.

Finally, the summit will be videotaped to be used as a tool forfurther organizing around a national biotechnology policy.

-- David Holzman Washington Editor

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