BioShield Heads to President's Desk

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Science  28 May 2004:
Vol. 304, Issue 5675, pp. 1225
DOI: 10.1126/science.304.5675.1225c

After a yearlong delay, the U.S. Senate last week unanimously passed Project BioShield, a 10-year, $5.6 billion plan to develop and stockpile vaccines and drugs to protect Americans against biological and nuclear attacks. The House has already approved a similar measure, and President George W. Bush is eagerly awaiting a final version of the bill.

BioShield is designed to give financial reassurances to small biotech and pharmaceutical companies that are nervous about investing in products—from anthrax vaccines to “dirty bomb” drugs—with a limited market. “It guarantees that any company that develops a successful new product for these threats will find a willing buyer in the federal government,” says Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA). BioShield also streamlines the approval process for new antiterror drugs and, in an emergency, allows the government to distribute experimental medicines.

Industry groups applauded the move, but some want more protection from legal liability. Lawmakers—including Senators Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT)are already working on follow-up legislation, dubbed BioShield II, to address such issues.

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