Bush May Hire Coordinator for Biotech Issues
As the FDA, USDA, EPA and U.S. Trade Representatives office may present views on biotech and genomic issues that "conflict" with one another, President Bush is considering a proposal to hire a "biotechnology coordinator" to present a "single voice" for the administration's opinions, the Boston Globe reports. Speaking at the Biotechnology Industry Organization's CEO and Investor Conference yesterday, Sen. Timothy Hutchinson (R-Ark.) said he had "discussed the idea of a biotech coordinator" with Bush. As a co-leader of the Senate's biotech caucus, Hutchinson said a coordinator position is needed because of biotech's "unique scientific, social, and political issues." He added that the "rapid scientific changes" in biotech warrant "one voice from the federal agencies." The Globe reports that Hutchinson's proposal comes one year after a communications snafu was made at a press briefing between former President Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair that contributed to a "major sell-off" of drug and biotech stocks. However, Bush has yet to fill several "key positions," including an FDA commissioner, a White House science adviser and National Science Foundation director. Carl Feldbaum, president of BIO, said, "A biotech coordinator is a good idea, one that would avoid the snafu that happened last year. However, I think a strong science adviser, a person with [a] molecular biology background, would go a long way, too" (Rosenberg, Boston Globe, 2/21).
In other administration news, President Bush is planning to move the Office of National AIDS Policy into the White House rather than maintaining its separate location a block away from the White House, Scripps Howard News Service/Memphis Commercial Appeal reports. In addition, the "as-yet-unnamed" AIDS director will hold a seat on the Domestic Policy Council, "one of the administration's key advisory panels," which will allow the AIDS director to "work closely with the president's special assistant on health." Scripps Howard/Commercial Appeal reports that the move will "assure" that AIDS office staff interact with officials responsible for forming Bush's domestic policy. A fact sheet circulated by the White House describing the move states that Bush will appoint "a strong AIDS director" to "retain a visible presence in the White House on AIDS issues." Bush said earlier this week, "[T]here's going to be a person in my office who has got the responsibility of coordinating the AIDS policy throughout the federal government." But the AIDS office will consist of a smaller staff, raising concerns from AIDS advocates. Bush also plans to seek additional NIH funding for biomedical research, "including for AIDS and global infections disease research" (Straub, Scripps Howard News Service/Memphis Commercial Appeal, 2/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.