- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 4, 2003

President Bush yesterday called for nearly $6 billion to develop and stockpile more effective vaccines and treatments for smallpox, anthrax, botulinum toxin, Ebola and plague.
Visiting the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda to highlight his initiative Project Bioshield, the president said the attacks of September 11 changed the nation's requirements for dealing with diseases even ones that occur rarely in nature.
"In light of the new threats, we must now develop and stockpile these vaccines and these treatments," Mr. Bush said after touring the NIH Vaccine Research Center in Bethesda.
"Project Bioshield will give our scientific leaders greater authority and flexibility in decisions that may affect our security. Our labs will be able to hire the experts, get more funding quickly and build the best facilities to accelerate urgently needed discoveries," Mr. Bush said.
The president said the United States must currently "go beyond our boarders" to find companies capable of making vaccines to combat biological weapons.
"The two main drug therapies used to treat anthrax are produced overseas. We must rebuild America's capacity to produce vaccines by committing the federal government to the purchase of medicines that combat bioterror," he said.
Mr. Bush first announced his proposed Project Bioshield in the State of the Union address, saying the effort would help protect Americans against attack by biological and chemical weapons or other dangerous pathogens. "We must assume that our enemies would use these diseases as weapons, and we must act before the dangers are upon us," he said then.
Releasing details of the plan yesterday, the White House said nearly $6 billion over 10 years is needed for the project to ensure the United States can develop "next-generation" medical countermeasures.
The project would give the Food and Drug Administration, which oversees medicinal-drug regulations nationwide, the ability to make treatments widely available as quickly as possible in the case of emergency.
Getting approval for a new medicine often takes as long as 10 years, but Mr. Bush wants to make sure vaccines and treatments are available, even if they are only in developmental stages.
The president also proposes creating a "permanent indefinite funding authority" to encourage private companies to develop medical countermeasures, the White House said. This will speed government purchase of vaccines and other therapies as soon as experts believe they can be made safe and effective.
In addition, the plan calls for the secretary of homeland security and the secretary of health and human services to "collaborate in identifying critical medical countermeasures by evaluating likely threats, new opportunities in biomedical research and development, and public health considerations."
Mr. Bush said yesterday the new effort on vaccines can yield surprising results.
"As scientists work to defeat the weapons of bioterror, they will gain new insights into the workings of other diseases. This will also break new ground in the search for treatments and cures for other illnesses. This could bring great benefits for all of humanity, especially in developing countries where infectious diseases often go uncontrolled," he said.
In his short speech to doctors and researchers, Mr. Bush said he said he looked forward to working with Congress on the proposal.

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