HOUSE BACKS $5.6 BILLION FUND TO DEVELOP BIOTERROR REMEDIES



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Last Updated

17 Jul 2003

Source: New York Times, July 17, 2003

House Backs $5.6 Billion Fund to Develop Bioterror Remedies

By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG

WASHINGTON, July 16 Nearly two years after a spate of anthrax-tainted letters killed five Americans and terrified millions more, the House voted overwhelmingly today to establish a $5.6 billion fund intended to encourage the development of drugs, vaccines and other defenses against biological, nuclear, radiological or chemical attack.

The 421-to-2 vote establishes an initiative known as Project Bioshield, outlined by President Bush in January in his State of the Union address. The bill now moves to the Senate, where the idea has broad bipartisan support. A similar bill was unanimously approved in committee.

"The wolves of terrorism are still on the lurk," Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, the majority leader, said after the vote. "We must steel ourselves for battle whenever they threaten."

The measure would provide $5.6 billion over 10 years to encourage private companies to work with the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies to research and develop measures to combat smallpox, ebola virus, plague, anthrax and other feared biological agents. The government would then buy the drugs or vaccines and stockpile them.

The bill also gives the secretary of health and human services the authority to allow the drugs and vaccines to be used without government approval in an emergency.

Supporters of the legislation, including representatives of the biotechnology industry, call it necessary because there is no commercial market for these drugs, so private companies have little incentive to invest in research.

"You don't have an otherwise normal market," said Gillian Woollett, an official of BIO, the biotechnology industry trade organization. "Essentially, the product has no value if you don't need it, but infinite value if you do."