President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair's brief statement of March 14 supporting free access to human genome information unleashed a slew of clichés, including "too little too late" and "water under the bridge." But initial misinterpretation of the statement led to a temporary slide in biotech stocks. By the end of the day, Celera Genomics Corp. of Rockville, Md., had dropped 19 percent, while Incyte Pharmaceuticals of Palo Alto, Calif., plummeted 27 percent. Even though the stock market soon rallied, ill will lingers between the public and private genome sequencers that the statement addressed.

As in much in life, timing influenced the impact of the Clinton-Blair remarks. Reportedly in the works for months, the announcement was set to coincide with the awarding of the Medals of Science and Technology. But it came on the heels of Britain's Wellcome Trust's March 5 public release of correspondence detailing...

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