Responding to growing fears of an avian influenza pandemic and threats of bioterrorism, the US Senate will consider legislation as early as this week to give the pharmaceutical and biotech industries new incentives to develop drugs and countermeasures against a range of pathogens, while offering vaccine manufacturers protection against liabilities.

Separately, President Bush yesterday (Nov. 1) outlined a $7.1-billion national strategy to expand domestic vaccine production capacity, detect and respond to influenza outbreaks, and stockpile treatments against the H5N1 avian influenza A virus, whose possible mutation into human transmissible form has sparked fears of a global pandemic.

Various biodefense measures are currently pending in Congress. Prominent among these is the Biodefense and Pandemic Vaccine and Drug Development Act (S. 1873). The bill, authored by Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), would establish a new government agency -- the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency (BARDA) -- to fund and coordinate government R&D...

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