WASHINGTON -- U.S. Rep. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., predicted Fridaythat biotechnology will be high on the agenda of the current102nd session of Congress, which opened last month.

"Science policy, health policy and biotechnology are going to besome of the really high-profile, important issues," he told ameeting of the Association of Biotechnology Companies.

Wyden, who chairs the House Committee on Small Businesses'subcommittee on regulation, business opportunities andenergy, pledged his continued efforts to find ways to trim thebacklog of biotechnology patent applications at the U.S. Patentand Trademark Office (PTO). A General Accounting Office studyrequested by Wyden and released last fall found 8,213 pendingbiotechnology patent applications at the PTO. Applicationsawaiting examination rose 33 percent in both 1989 and 1990,despite an effort to the reduce the load.

The PTO won't meet a 1992 goal of reviewing biotechapplications within 18 months, Wyden said. "I am concernedthe patent office is still not on top of this problem."

Wyden thinks there's a better chance that "user fees" will beimposed on companies applying for drug approvals from theFood and Drug Administration. President Bush included suchfees in the proposed 1992 federal budget presented toCongress last wee.. Congress removed a similar provision fromthe budget last year. -- Carol Ezzell

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