McMillen helps form biotechnology caucus Keeping U.S. advantage is group's goal.


WASHINGTON -- Rep. Tom McMillen of Maryland and three other members of Congress have formed the Congressional Biotechnology Caucus -- designed to ensure that the United States retains its competitive advantage.

"Biotechnology is one of the most exciting frontiers now being explored by America's brightest minds, and we must keep Congress abreast of policy and legislation with biotechnology implications," McMillen said yesterday in a statement announcing the new group.

U.S. biotechnology companies had sales of $2.9 billion last year -- double the sales from the previous year, according to the caucus, which believes annual sales could reach $50 billion to $60 billion by the end of the decade.

The Baltimore-Washington area boasts the third largest number of biotechnology firms, right behind Boston and New York, according to McMillen, D-4th. Biotechnology includes research in areas such as health care, pharmaceuticals, agriculture and environmental protection.

"We in Congress need to set today the correct regulatory and statutory framework for biotechnology and biotech companies to flourish," said McMillen, who co-founded the caucus with Rep. Hank Brown, R-Colo.; Rep. Thomas J. Bliley, R-Va.; and Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J.

The first task for the caucus co-chairmen will be to recruit other senators and House members to join the caucus, as well as to get help in the caucus' goal of promoting America's biotechnology industry.

Goals include working for research and development funds and monitoring patent law changes dealing with new technologies, as well as coordinating regulatory efforts among various federal agencies.

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