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SAN DIEGO-More than 10,000 of the world’s biotech leaders gathered this week to discuss progress in the field and chart a future course of action. The Bio2001 International Biotechnology Convention and Exhibition is being held here, the third-largest biotech cluster in the United States.

Police were out in force at Monday’s conference, is part reacting to reports that up to 8,000 protesters could take part in a “Biodevastation 2001″ counter-event opposing the industry’s role in genetically altered food, cloning and other ethically charged issues.

A handful of protesters did show up, but their demonstrations were orderly. Downtown building owners had feared protesters would disrupt commerce and activity through the area.

President Bush delivered a taped greeting in which he called for a permanent tax break for investments in research and development, which drew support from the crowd.

The conference runs through Wednesday at the San Diego Convention Center and is being billed as the world’s most prestigious biotechnology event. On Monday, NASA and the Biotechnology Industry Organization announced a partnership to expand space-based commercial opportunities in pharmaceutical, biotechnology, biomedical and agricultural research.

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