By Steve Usdin
Contributing Editor

WASHINGTON - As Washington pundits, real estate agents and lobbyists scramble to exploit opportunities presented by the first Republican Congress in 40 years, a number of legislative opportunities potentially favoring the biotechnology industry also are emerging.

The new Congress presents a variety of chances for the biotechnology industry to move from a negative approach to Capitol Hill, fighting battles to block or mitigate bills that could hurt it, to a more positive engagement. There is a good chance the 104th Congress will pass incentives to capital formation, reforms in tort and liabilities law, and intellectual property reforms.

The new Congress puts to rest some of the industry's biggest fears. Price controls on pharmaceuticals, breakthrough drug committees, and medicare blacklisting are dead issues. Changes to the Orphan Drug act are unlikely.

"Drug price controls are off the table, they will not be an issue, they will not be a threat in the next Congress. We can declare a permanent victory that will last through the next presidential election," predicted Lisa Raines, head of Genzyme Corp.'s Washington office.

Schenk gone

The tide that gave the Republicans control over the House also swept out some of biotech's strongest, most effective partisans, including Lynn Schenk, D-Calif., and Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky, D-Penn.