Bush Administration Officials Call for Revisions to Project BioShield at Senate Hearing
Bush administration officials on Tuesday told members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee on Bioterrorism and Public Health Preparedness that Project BioShield requires revisions, CQ Today reports (Schuler, CQ Today, 2/8).
Project BioShield, enacted in July 2004, authorizes $5.6 billion over 10 years to encourage pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to work with NIH to develop antidotes, vaccines and other products to treat and protect against a number of potential biological weapons (California Healthline, 11/5/04). According to CQ Today, the response by pharmaceutical and biotech companies "has been limited."
NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said, "There is an issue with incentives to produce and develop a product with little commercial value," adding, "BioShield has been successful but needs to go further."
In addition, Fauci said that biotech companies would "like much more flexibility in what they could do with a product" developed under Project BioShield (CQ Today, 2/8). "To think the government will be successful without industry is folly," Fauci added (Heil, CongressDaily, 2/8).
The subcommittee held the hearing in advance of Senate debate on a bill (S 3) that would address some of the concerns about Project BioShield raised by pharmaceutical and biotech companies, such as a lack of adequate liability protection for potential health problems related to products developed under the law.
Subcommittee Chair Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said, "I believe that BioShield is starting to address the bioterrorism threat but acknowledge that more is needed to fully protect our country" (CQ Today, 2/8). Burr added, "In order to increase scientific effort in this area, the government must have the full participation from the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries."
Senate HELP Subcommittee Chair Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.) said, "The first bill wasn't perfect, but we got it done, and the next won't be perfect either, but we'll get it done."
However, some members of the subcommittee questioned the need for additional incentives for pharmaceutical and biotech companies under Project BioShield. "Incentives are an indispensable part of defending against bioterrorism, but incentives have to be appropriate," Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) said, adding, "We can't afford to squander resources on needless giveaways" (CongressDaily, 2/8).