Bush presses case for BioShield, stepped-up R&D

President Bush urged a gathering of biotechnology executives and scientists from around the world to prod Congress to approve nearly $6 billion for Project BioShield, his 10-year R&D proposal to help defend against bioterrorism.

Speaking this afternoon at BIO 2003, an industry conference in Washington, Bush said Project BioShield would give federal scientists greater flexibility to award contracts and grants to find and develop 'medical countermeasures' to biological attacks and 'agents of bioterror,' such as anthrax, botulism and Ebola.

'Our labs will be able to hire the right experts, to buy the right equipment and to speed the construction of the right facilities to accelerate urgently needed discoveries,' Bush said.

Research and vaccine development efforts are expected to rely heavily on computer modeling and simulation, especially in unraveling the genetic makeup of lethal viruses, and designing vaccines and therapies.

The president's proposal would simplify federal acquisition rules for goods and services. Specifics on information-technology spending have not been broken out but the Congressional Budget Office estimates administrative costs for the proposal would reach $7 million in the first year.

'Like other great scientific efforts, Project BioShield will have applications beyond its immediate goals.' Bush said. 'As scientists work to defeat the weapons of bioterror, I know they will gain new insights into the workings of other diseases. And this will also break new ground for the search for treatments and cures.'

Bush proposed BioShield in his State of the Union address in January. A Senate committee approved a bill in mid-March, sending it to the full Senate, and a House committee approved a separate funding proposal last month.

While supported by the industry, critics say BioShield could lead to unchecked spending for goods and services and potentially rush new drugs to market without adequate safety tests.

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