Although he gave President Clinton high marks for includinghigh technology in his budget proposal, the head of the newbiotechnology trade association cautioned that the presidentmust also keep in mind that price controls could seriouslydamage the biotechnology industry.

On Friday, Carl Feldbaum, president of the newly mergedbiotechnology trade association, praised Clinton for includingproposals for increased spending in high-technology research-- including biotechnology -- in the $1.52 trillion package thatthe president submitted to Congress last Thursday.

More money is to be funneled toward applied research inbiotechnology and other areas of science at the NationalInstitutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and otherfederal agencies, he said. "This budget package puts real punchbehind President Clinton's technology initiative."

But Feldbaum warned that "all of the good the president istrying to achieve through his proposed increases in appliedresearch funding can be undone by regressive measures, suchas placing controls on the prices of new innovative drugs."

That is why the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), thefruit of the merger between the Industrial BiotechnologyAssociation and the Association of Biotechnology Companies,has concentrated on getting its message on drug prices acrossto the Clinton administration. BIO will officially come into beingon July 1.

"We have focused our input on the single issue of impact ofcaps on introductory drug prices because that is the one issuethat has the potential to strangle the young industry,"Feldbaum told BioWorld.

"Our participation has been welcomed by the administration,and our contacts have been congenial and creative," Feldbaumsaid. "I believe the Clinton administration is deeply committedto the success of biotechnology."

Several members of Clinton's administration could very well befavorably disposed toward biotechnology. Vice President AlGore is well-versed in the area and has spoken at IBAmeetings. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, who Feldbaum said"will certainly be a player in health care reform," directed a1991 Office of Technology Assessment study of biotechnologywhile he was at Harvard University. And Jack Gibbons, Clinton'sscience adviser, also knows the area well.

Feldbaum added that he is impressed with the process of theadministration's health care policy deliberations. "This is atruly unprecedented policy-making process," he said. "Weprobably have never seen the sort of purely intellectual focusof phase one, in which they are creating an enormous menu ofoptions. If you are going to revolutionize health care oranything else, it's a good way to start."

The political process of choosing among all the options isstarting, and "my prediction is that the uncertainties that aredepressing the markets now will begin to lift in May, with theintroduction of various proposals," Feldbaum said.

Feldbaum declined to speculate about how the administrationwill handle the pricing issue. "But over the past seven weeks,we've gotten the message across that our companies are fragile,and dependent on venture capital, and I believe theadministration understands the damage that price controlswould do."

-- David C. Holzman Washington Editor

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