The emergence of biology-based commercial enterprises is not only fostering difficulties between the private and public sectors regarding access to research resources; it may even affect the way basic science is conducted. A letter report issued recently by the National Research Council (NRC) identifies the most pressing issues of this multifaceted problem and recommends how to begin solving it. The report, by a 26-member life sciences commission, derives from an NRC conference held in early 1999 and subsequent discussions.

Commission member David V. Galas, chief academic officer at Keck Graduate Institute, observes, "In some ways, now that biology has become an important financial force, it's natural that this should happen." Noting that chemistry and electrical engineering have already extended from basic science into commercial enterprise, he says that lessons learned from them, though helpful, may not be fully transferable to biology. "I think even in a very strongly market-driven...

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