The Senate and House of Representatives last week passed a bill institutionalizing federal nanotechnology research and development and authorizing nearly $3.7 billion in spending over 4 years beginning October 1, 2004. The measure, called the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act (S 189), establishes a White House National Nanotechnology Program office.

The bill, which President Bush is expected to sign, also establishes a network of university-based advanced technology centers, including at least one focusing on medical ethics, legal, and environmental issues. It creates a nanotechnology “preparedness center” to evaluate workforce and ethical issues and establishes an advisory panel to provide feedback to the president and senior officials.

“We now stand at the threshold of an age in which materials and devices can be fashioned atom by atom,” said Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), chairman of the House Science Committee and one of the bill's sponsors. “The capability will have...

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