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Bioshield Funding Insufficient for Drug Companies

Global Security Newswire

Funding available under the U.S. Project Bioshield is not sufficient to prompt large pharmaceutical companies to develop countermeasures against biological, chemical or radiological weapons, Investor’s Business Daily reported Friday (see GSN, June 7).

The Bush administration in 2004 designated $5.6 billion over 10 years for production of vaccines and antidotes.

“The country would benefit immeasurably from pharma getting involved,” said Tom Inglesby, deputy director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Biosecurity. “But when a single drug can cost $1 billion to develop, $560 million a year for counterterrorist products isn’t enough for them.”

The funding levels are more appealing to smaller biotechnology firms. However, to date only six companies have received contracts.

Hollis-Eden has pushed for a contract to produce 10 million doses of a drug that rebuilds infection-fighting white blood cells vulnerable to radiation exposure, according to Investor’s Business Daily. That campaign appears to have failed, and the company is competing against three others for a 100,000-dose Health and Human Services Department order for an antiradiation drug.

Troubles also can arise after receiving a contract. The government in 2004 ordered 75 million doses of an anthrax vaccine from California biotechnology firm VaxGen. The government in May ordered additional human tests of the drug (see GSN, May 11). VaxGen will not be compensated for the additional work or paid until delivery of the vaccine begins. That is now scheduled for late 2008, two years behind the original schedule.

“What happened to us is what investors fear most: a contract change without compensation,” said Lance Ignon, vice president of corporate affairs at VaxGen (Peter Benesh, Investor’s Business Daily/Yahoo!News, Sept. 8).