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  Latest News  
  October 25,  2004
Volume 82, Number 43
p. 13


  Biodefense Seen As Falling Short
Survey says U.S. is ill prepared to rapidly respond to biothreats

IN THE WORKS Hollis-Eden's Neumune is intended to protect against radiation damage after a nuclear attack. -


Biomedical experts from the pharmaceutical industry, government, and academia generally agree that the U.S. is poorly prepared to quickly develop the medicines needed to counter bioterrorism and natural epidemics, according to a new survey.

Researchers from the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and from technology research firm Sarnoff Corp. just published the results of their poll in a report called "Taking the Measure of Countermeasures: Leaders' Views on the Nation's Capacity to Develop Biodefense Countermeasures." The report is available on the Internet at http://www.upmc-biosecurity.org.

The Project Bioshield Act of 2004, which provides $5.6 billion over the next 10 years to stockpile biodefense drugs and vaccines, "will not be enough to entice pharmaceutical industry leaders into this field," the report's authors say.

The survey calls for a single organization that would monitor biodefense strategy and coordinate collaboration among academic, pharmaceutical, biotech, and government entities.

"An engineered pathogen is almost trivially easy to engineer," says Lynne Gilfillan, government operation director at Sarnoff and a report coauthor. "We need an organization whose primary focus is to reduce the time to develop new drugs. Government needs to be involved."

Richard B. Hollis, CEO of the venture-capital-funded firm Hollis-Eden Pharmaceuticals, counters that "the report is ludicrous. It says the taxpayers should take all the research risk and then pay for the new drugs."

Hollis, whose firm is developing immune-regulating hormones intended to protect victims of a nuclear or dirty-bomb attack, says the government needs a central clearinghouse to define what it needs under Project Bioshield. It must then "invite firms with novel technology to spend their own development funds and compete to offer the best products to the government."

  Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2004

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