Senator to introduce nanotech bill;
hearings are scheduled for Tuesday

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WASHINGTON, Sept. 12, 2002 — The future of the federal government’s involvement with nanotechnology is up for debate next Tuesday, when U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., plans to introduce a nanotechnology bill and hold a hearing in his committee.

The staff of Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., has spent more than a year putting together language for a nanotechnology bill that would affect civilian federal agencies.

The bill, however, would have to be scrutinized and debated by the Senate Commerce Committee before being reviewed by the full Senate. Wyden, chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space, is taking the lead on nanotechnology issues in the committee. Wyden’s and Lieberman’s staffs have been collaborating on the bill in recent weeks.

Wyden, chairman of the subcommittee for the past 11 months, is “looking for opportunities for economic growth and development, and jobs, especially in this economy,” said his press secretary, Lisa Wade-Raasch. “With the amazing potential for nanotechnology, it’s a topic that has grabbed his attention.”

Scheduled to testify at the hearing, she said, are: Richard Russell, chief of staff of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Sam Stupp, director of the Institute for Bioengineering and Nanoscience in Advanced Medicine at Northwestern University and chair of a recent National Academies of Science review of the federal National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI); and Mark Modzelewski, executive director of the NanoBusiness Alliance, a trade association.

Senators want to know if “this is a real business, or if it will be a real business, and where it is going,” Modzelewski said. “I’m going to tell them that there are real companies making real money in nanotechnology now, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg. The promise of it can’t be ignored and from a global competitiveness standpoint the United States needs to focus on it and invest in more than just basic science.”

He also said he will give a “ringing endorsement” of the NNI, a program established by President Clinton in 2000 that has organized the federal approach to nanotechnology research and roughly tripled the investment.

Modzelewski praised the committee’s focus on business rather than long-term research. He said he expects there to be more hearings on nanotechnology this year, but not before the November elections.

It is widely expected that the bill will make the NNI a standing government program, with its own budget. Currently, it exists at the whim of the White House.


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