Biotechnology has a good friend in the new director of thecongressional Office of Technology Assessment.

Roger Herdman was named the agencyLs acting director inJanuary, after serving as assistant director in charge of theHealth and Life Science Division from 1984, and becamepermanent head of OTA this month.

He presided over a number of reports on biotechnology,including Biotechnology and the Global Economy, CommercialBiotechnology, and the five-part series called NewDevelopments in Biotechnology. OTA is a non-partisan agencythat provides objective and thorough analysis of technologicalissues to committees and members of Congress.

Herdman's experience in biotechnology goes back to theindustry's early days. As a vice president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, prior to coming to OTA, "Iidentified products and technologies that Sloan-Kettering wasdeveloping as part of its research program, and approachedcompanies for whom they might be of interest," Herdman toldBioWorld. "I signed developmental agreements, licensingagreements and research agreements." He left Sloan-Ketteringin 1983

Herdman worked with a number of biotechnology companies,including Centocor Inc., Xoma Corp., Genetics Institute Inc. andAmgen Inc., as well as with large drug companies.

Herdman was also a co-founder and board member ofOncogene Sciences Inc. of Uniondale, N.Y. He divested hisholdings when he became involved in a study that created aconflict of interest.

The most crucial issue currently facing the biotechnologyindustry is pricing, Herdman said. "My feeling is that the cost-control movement in health care is very likely to pose asubstantial challenge," he told BioWorld. And Herdman has aclear understanding of how the problem of financing makesthis challenge far tougher for biotechnology companies than forpharmaceutical companies.

"He is thoroughly familiar with the interests and concerns ofthe biotechnology industry," said Lisa Raines, vice president forgovernment relations at the Industrial BiotechnologyAssociation, who said she worked with Herdman at OTA. "Wechat periodically about the biotechnology issues OTA isinvolved in. He has always been genuinely interested andunderstanding."

"He's a terrific person, not politicized, and has neverapproached issues from anything other than a neutral,objective way," said Peter Barton Hutt, former chief counsel toFDA, who has served on five committees for OTA. "He isextremely conscientious and bright -- everything you wouldwant in an OTA director," Hutt told BioWorld.

Herdman has also been director of public health for the state ofNew York and director of the state's kidney disease institute.

-- David C. Holzman Washington Editor

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