WASHINGTON -- James Watson is on the verge of resigning asdirector of the National Center for Human Genome Research, inpart because of allegations that his holdings in severalbiotechnology companies may violate conflict of interest rules,according to an article that will be published tomorrow inScience.

Watson, who is not quoted in the article, was unavailable forcomment. However, Leslie Fink, a spokeswoman for the genomecenter, told BioWorld that "I can't dispute" reports that he isseriously considering stepping down.

"Push has come to shove" in Watson's dispute with NationalInstitutes of Health Director Bernadine Healy, "and the(Science) article has certainly played a role," she said.

The Nobel Prize winner has engaged in several public disputeswith Healy over science policy issues. Watson has called Healy'sdecision to file patent applications for gene fragments from thehuman brain "sheer lunacy." Healy, in turn, has expressedconcern over potential conflicts of interest on Watson's part,including his share holdings in several biotechnologycompanies, according to Science.

Watson's biotechnology holdings were approved in 1990 byJack Kress, special counsel for ethics in the Department ofHealth and Human Services. Changes in Watson's holdings andin conflict of interest regulations have caused the specialcounsel to revisit the issue, according to the article.

Watson's biotech portfolio has not been made public. Fink saidthe NIH was considering the legal aspects of divulging theinformation.

-- Steve Usdin BioWorld Washington Bureau

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