I fear that bench scientists in biotech companies may be taking the current debate over health-care reform much too casually. They may be thinking that, aside from how the outcome will affect the cost of their own individual insurance coverage, the matter is something that only people in Washington, D.C., need to care about.

Well, if they feel that way, they're wrong. Already, health- care reform is having a damaging impact on the scientific work force--and the implications for the future are even more threatening.

The CEOs of two small biotech firms and I recently met with the editorial board of the Baltimore Sun. During the meeting, one of the executives explained that, like 99 percent of United States biotechnology companies, his enterprise had no products yet on the market. Without earning revenues from sales, and certainly without profits, his company relies on private venture capital and potential stock offerings...

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