WASHINGTON -- The president's budget squeaked by Fridaynight, with Vice President Gore casting the tie-breaking vote.Sen. Bob Kerry, D-Neb., remained undecided until Friday, butfinally sided with the president, deadlocking the Senate tally50-50 along partisan lines.
Though somewhat of a mixed bag in many ways, the bill is abig net boost for biotechnology, Chuck Ludlam, vice presidentfor government relations for the Biotechnology IndustryOrganization (BIO) told BioWorld.
But one person's boost is another's bane. "How does up to $50million in tax credits compare with an overall bill that takes$1.8 trillion investment capital out of circulation over fiveyears?" James Derderian, an aide to CongressionalBiotechnology Caucus Co-Chair Tom Bliley, R-Va., asked."Biotechnology won't profit in a severely hamstrung economy."
And despite watering down the provision for bovine growthhormone (BST), the mere precedent of a provision to ban abiotechnology product, even for three months, is scary,Derderian told BioWorld. "The regulatory arena can put adagger through the heart of the industry pretty damn quickly."
But Clinton's victory may strengthen BIO. In return for thefavorable tax packages, the trade organization lobbied on thebudget bill's behalf. And just 10 days before the crucial budgetvote, Kirk Raab, Genentech Inc.'s chief executive, occupied aseat of honor next to the president at a luncheon attended by60 high-tech company chiefs.
BIO's work on behalf of the budget bill laid the groundwork fora working relationship that could benefit biotechnology,Ludlam told BioWorld. "This is the first big vote for theadministration. ... (It) is going to be a very important memoryas we work with them on other issues, like health care reform."
Moreover, with the budget out of the way, Clinton can presentthe first outline of health care reform to a joint session ofCongress on Sept. 21, Ludlam told BioWorld. Money men tendto see bogeymen behind every uncertainty, and the specter ofhealth care reform has dampened enthusiasm forbiotechnology.
"In the case of Genzyme (Corp.), dozens of Wall Street analystshave recommended buying the stock five to eight points higherthan it is today, Lisa Raines, the company's vice president forgovernment relations told BioWorld. "But people have beenselling instead of buying."
Nonetheless, BIO will behave as if the worst might happen untilthe health care bill is signed, about a year from now, Ludlamsaid.
But from Derderian's point of view, Clinton's victory bodes ill."A win, from purely political terms, makes (the administration)ascendant and maybe a little more confident to go for a larger,more comprehensive -- for lack of another term -- radicalhealth care proposal. I think in that mix, the pharmaceuticalend of the biotechnology industry had better worry."
-- David C. Holzman Washington Editor
(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.