Project BioShield signed into law

President Bush today signed into law the Project BioShield Act of 2004, which authorizes $5.6 billion over 10 years to purchase, develop and deploy cutting-edge defenses against bioterror attack.

The law essentially guarantees incentives for pharmaceutical companies through grants from the National Institutes of Health for drugs and vaccines for which there is no commercial market

'By acting as a willing buyer for the best new medical technologies, the government ensures that our drug stockpile remains safe, effective and advanced,' Bush said in remarks at the signing.
The Homeland Security and Health and Human Services Departments will oversee Project BioShield.

'This law also sends a clear signal that the U.S. government is prepared to be a full partner with the research community in the fight against bioterrorism,' said Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson. He is directing NIH to speed development of new treatments for victims of biological, radiological or nuclear attack. Grants for this kind of research typically take 18 to 24 months to process. Under Project BioShield, HHS expects to complete the process in about six months.

The bill also would accelerate the approval process and allow the government to distribute some treatments for bioterror agents, such as smallpox, plague and Ebola virus, before the Food and Drug Administration approves them.

The administration has already begun acquiring 75 million doses of a second-generation anthrax vaccine for stockpiling next year and a safer second-generation smallpox vaccine.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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