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Last Updated

13 Jul 2003

Source: Reuters, May 29, 2002.

US Mulls Development of Counter - Terror Technologies

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration is wrestling with how to spur development of counter-terrorism technologies to cope with post-Sept. 11 threats, including new vaccines against potential germ warfare agents, President Bush's science adviser said on Wednesday.

"All mechanisms are being explored,'' said John Marburger, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. He said he expected a mix of regulations, government procurements and industry incentives to emerge.

Marburger has been working closely with Tom Ridge, head of the White House Office of Homeland Security set up after the September attacks. Ridge is expected to release a report in July outlining long-term a homeland security strategy, including structures and mechanisms for dealing with chemical, biological and nuclear threats.

The pharmaceutical industry was "a very good example of an industry that requires something (from the government)'' to coax out vaccines against smallpox and other biological warfare threats, he told reporters at a session organized by New Technology Week, a trade publication.

"In general, (countering) bioterrorism is difficult to support on the basis of the commercial market,'' Marburger said. ''And so there's going to have to be something like a procurement or incentive here.''

But industry also must rise to the challenge, said Lewis Branscomb, co-chair of an anti-terrorism technology panel sponsored by the National Academies. The panel is due to release the first phase of a science and technology counter-terrorism study late next month.

Venture capitalists taking part in a Washington networking fair said they were awaiting word from the government to guide their bets on emerging technologies.

"Does anybody have a clue as to what direction we really want to go with respect to bioterrorism?'' asked Josh Fidler, a partner at Boulder Ventures Limited, which invests in biotechnology and life sciences initiatives and has about $250 million under management. "I don't think so. Not yet.''

Robert Grady, managing partner of Carlyle Venture Partners, part of the Carlyle Group, one of the world's biggest private equity firms with $13.6 billion under management, said Sept. 11 had boosted interest in security-related investments, especially those with a track record of selling to defense contractors.

But investors can be "extremely, extremely selective'' about what they're funding, he said. "And so only the best companies will bet funded by us and probably by anyone.''