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NEWS OF THE WEEK
COUNTERING TERRORISM
March 25, 2002
Volume 80, Number 12
CENEAR 80 12 p. 11
ISSN 0009-2347
[Previous Story] [Next Story]

NIH'S BIOTERROR RESEARCH AGENDA
Personnel may not be sufficient to cope with influx of new money

WILLIAM SCHULZ

An agenda for a new bioterrorism research institute at the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases (NIAID) was unveiled last week, detailing how the NIH institute plans to spend more than $1 billion in new funding.

"The NIAID Counter-Bioterrorism Research Agenda describes the highest priorities of an accelerated program to research bioterror agents," said Health & Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson.

The official plan does not differ from that described by NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci at last month's annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (C&EN, March 4, page 30). It focuses on "Category A" diseases: anthrax, smallpox, plague, tularemia, viral hemorrhagic fevers, and botulism.

Many goals in the agenda build on ongoing NIAID research. NIAID vaccines for smallpox, Ebola, and anthrax are now approaching clinical testing.

A few days after the plan was released, however, an NIH official testified on Capitol Hill that the agency is not yet prepared to handle the influx of research proposals that will result from the new funding.

"There is not sufficient infrastructure for reviewing these applications that are going to come in, or for managing the new applications that will be funded and implemented," said Ellie Ehrenfeld, director of the NIH Center for Scientific Review, before a House appropriations committee.

At the same hearing, NIH Acting Director Ruth L. Kirschstein described the agency's fiscal 2003 budget request for research management and support as "generous." She said NIH will "titrate" management and administrative needs to handle the influx of research proposals.

The full plan is on the Web at http://www.niaid.nih.gov/dmid/pdf/biotresearchagenda.pdf.


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