President Bush Signs 10-Year, $5.6 Billion Project BioShield Act Into Law
President Bush in a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden on Wednesday signed the Project BioShield Act (S 15), which guarantees $5.6 billion over the next 10 years to promote private-sector development of medications and vaccines to treat U.S. residents in the event of a biological, nuclear, radiological or chemical attack, AP/Detroit News reports. Bush said that the new law would "rally the great promise of American science and innovation to confront the greatest danger of our time" (Riechmann, AP/Detroit News, 7/22). "We know that the terrorists seek an even deadlier technology. And if they acquire chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, we have no doubt they will use them to cause even greater harm," Bush said (Branigin, Washington Post, 7/21).
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who sponsored the legislation in the Senate, said in a statement, "Project BioShield creates a lifesaving partnership between our government and the private sector to develop the vaccines needed to protect our citizens from this bioterrorism. This bill could save millions of lives" (AP/Detroit News, 7/22). Kennedy, Vice President Dick Cheney, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) attended the ceremony (CongressDaily, 7/21).
Bush first announced Project BioShield in his 2003 State of the Union address. The law authorizes funds to encourage pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to work with NIH to develop antidotes, vaccines and other products to treat and protect against anthrax, smallpox, botulism, plague, Ebola virus and radiation from "dirty bombs."
Under the law, the federal government guarantees the purchase of such products, which likely would not have a high demand in the private market, to provide companies with incentive to invest in their research and development. The law also allows for the emergency distribution of such products before they receive FDA approval. In such cases, the government will inform individuals about the risks and benefits of unapproved products, after which time individuals could decide to refuse treatment (California Healthline, 7/15).