█ JULI BERWALD
Although the medical industry has made great strides in the treatment of many naturally occurring diseases, such as cancer and heart disease, over the last few decades, very little has changed in the treatment of many of the diseases that might be used in an terrorist attack. In particular, the smallpox vaccine has not changed much since the 1960s and the treatments for exposure to radiation have remained the same since the 1970s. The goal of the BioShield project is to focus biomedical research and development on the field of bioterrorism to improve the treatment of bioterrorism threats.
President George W. Bush announced Project BioShield during his State of the Union Address in January of 2003. As approved by Congress, this project commits $6 billion to improve treatment of diseases caused by biological, chemical and radiological weapons. The project is a joint effort between the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Under the BioShield Project, resources will be made available to buy the most effective drugs and vaccines available for the treatment of anthrax, smallpox, and botulism and, in the future, ebola and plague. This financial commitment is intended to ensure that the private sector produces the vaccines and drugs required to treat bioterrorist threats. The Secretary of Health and Human Services will identify the most critical threats and will collaborate with industry to develop and make available the most effective countermeasures.
The project gives the National Institute of Health funding to expedite research into the most promising new drug treatments. In particular, procedures to speed up the funding process for grant proposals for research into new drug therapies for chemical, biological and radiological diseases will be authorized. Technical experts will be hired more quickly and equipment required for research will be purchased more rapidly. There is hope that some of the most recent research in the fields of genetics, immunology, molecular engineering and proteomics will be useful in developing novel treatments for the diseases caused by bioterrorism. In addition, some of the innovations developed under Project BioShield may become important in the treatment of naturally occurring diseases.
The BioShield project provides the Food and Drug Administration with the authority to make promising drugs widely available in emergency situations.
█ FURTHER READING:
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency: Defense Sciences Office <http://www.darpa.mil/dso/thrust/biosci/biostech.htm> (March 26, 2003).
The White House, News & Policies. President Details Project BioShield. February 3, 2003. <http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/02/20030203.html> (April, 3 2003).
Biological Warfare, Advanced Diagnostics