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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions - S. 682

Location: Washington, DC

March 21, 2003


S. 682. A bill to authorize funding for Genomes to Life Research and Development at the Department of Energy for fiscal years 2004 through 2008; to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce—along with my colleagues Chairman DOMENICI, and Senators BINGAMAN and MURRAY—the Genomes to Life Research and Development Act.

This bill capitalizes on the enormous success of the Human Genome Project, and promises to take this important research to the next level. While the mapping of the human genome is an unparalleled accomplishment on its own, this new initiative will allow researchers to go beyond the science of description, and begin to explore the complex interactions of the elements within cells.

It is those intracellular dynamics that truly hold the key to finding solutions to some of our most difficult scientific problems—from detection of biological and chemical agents and nuclear waste clean-up to figuring out new and more efficient ways to produce hydrogen, so crucial in attaining energy independence for this Nation. Where the Human Genome Project has provided researchers with the range and description of musical notes, Genomes to Life will enable scientists to begin to understand the way these notes are arranged to produce music—the essential process of life.

The Genomes to Life Act sets out an aggressive path for DOE, to make this area a high priority for the Office of Science. Of course, none of this would be possible without the successes of the Human Genome Project, and I want to acknowledge the vision of this legislation's other sponsor, Chairman DOMENICI, in making that a reality. As some of my colleagues may be aware, the senior Senator from New Mexico laid the foundation for the Human Genome Project with legislation he first introduced in 1987.

I am thus extremely pleased to be working with him on this bill, which I believe is the Human Genome Project's logical successor. Our legislation would authorize the Department of Energy to design and establish national research centers to investigate proteomics and genomics. Proteomics refers to the study of proteins, how they are modified, when and where they are expressed, how they are involved in metabolic pathways, and how they interact with each other. Genomics refers to the study of three-dimensional structures of thousands of proteins—all of the proteins produced by a species.

These are exciting research fields that combine the discipline of physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, and advanced computational and mathematical modeling. The Department of Energy's Office of Science has a long history of success in large scale, cross-discipline scientific research and is thus well suited to manage this program. In addition, a significant component of the Human Genome Project has been the transfer of technology to the private sector, which has in turn catalyzed the multi-billion dollar U.S. biotechnology industry and fostered the development of new medical applications.

The Genomes to Life Act that Chairman DOMENICI, Senators BINGAMAN, MURRAY and I are introducing today provides a coordinated and comprehensive plan for the next generation of biotechnology research facilities. The functions and dynamics of all living cells are determined by the complex interactions of the constituent proteins. We do not yet understand these interactions, but the Genomes to Life Act will give us the best tools to investigate these microscopic mysteries. Put in simple terms, teams of American scientists will try to answer the fundamental question, "How do cells work?" This bill will ensure that state of the art facilities, leading edge equipment, and the next generation of commuters are available to map and model these complex interactions, as we strive to answer this critical question.

The promise of biotechnology research is especially important to my state of Washington—home to many world-class research facilities. Washington has over 190 biotechnology companies employing more than 11,000 people. In 2001, the annual revenue of these companies exceeded $1.2 billion. Nearly one half of these companies were based on technologies developed at research and development institutions and over 40 percent of the companies have been established in the past six years.

This legislation's provisions—ensuring that research with its origins at the Department of Energy provides the science and technology basis for new industries in biotechnology, and that DOE continues to identify appropriate commercial applications—will help this important economic sector continue to grow in Washington state and across the country.

The Genomes to Life Research and Development Act that Sens. DOMENICI, BINGAMAN, MURRAY and I have introduced today will strengthen our national security and our national economy. Additionally, the integrative and predicative understanding of biological systems will improve our ability to respond to the energy and environmental challenges of the 21st century. The Genomes to Life laboratories will attract top researchers and push the envelope of present technologies. The Genomes to Life Act will help the U.S. to maintain our premiere position in the world in the fields of science and technology.

I look forward to working with my colleagues during this session to ensure passage of this legislation. I believe that the United States must continue to invest in scientific research to maintain our standing in the world and I am confident that this short-term investment will pay long-term dividends to our health, our security, and to our economy.

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