After a long delay, the US Senate last week (May 19) unanimously passed the "Project BioShield Act of 2004" (S 15), the White House's plan to accelerate development and production of new vaccines and countermeasures against bioweapons. The House, which had passed a similar bill last year, is expected to reconcile differences quickly and send the measure to President Bush for his signature.

BioShield will allow the government to spend $5.6 billion over 10 years to develop and purchase "huge amounts" of vaccines or drugs to treat smallpox, anthrax, botulinum toxin, Ebola, plague, and other pathogens. The measure will also give the National Institutes of Health (NIH) new authority to bypass traditional procedures when awarding grants and contracts for bioterrorism research and will allow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to sidestep usual approval processes to distribute experimental drugs in case of a bioterrorist attack or other emergency.


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