WASHINGTON - The fine print in budget legislation approved by the House appropriations committee could - if countervailing action is not taken - eviscerate the NIH's $230 million SBIR grant program.

The legislative wording, inserted at the behest of the Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology, would have the effect of diverting to academic researchers about 80 percent of the funds NIH currently spends on SBIR grants, according to the Biotechnology Industry Organization.