A one-sentence amendment added without controversy to the fiscal 2001 NIH appropriations bill could have a big impact on the financial and scientific relationships between biotech companies and academic researchers. The amendment (see box), introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), was approved by the Senate in June, and Senate staffers consider it likely to survive the current rush by Senate and House members to reconcile their respective versions of the appropriations bill.

Even though it is possible that the "reasonable return" amendment could be dropped, senior NIH officials already have started looking into how to implement it.