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Bush Budget Request Includes $6 Billion for Project BioShield

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 3, 2003 – President Bush's fiscal 2004 budget request includes $6 billion for Project BioShield, a plan to quickly make available safer and more effective vaccines and treatments against biological agents such as smallpox, anthrax, botulinum toxin, ebola and plague.

"With focus and determination and necessary resources," he said, "this government will act before dangers are upon us."

The war on terrorism has placed research scientists at the center of the mission to defend the American people, Bush said today at the National Institute of Health's Vaccine Research Center in Bethesda, Md.

"Illnesses that haunted other generations, such as polio and measles, are now part of the past because of the vision and ingenuity of the men and women who work here at NIH," he said. "This new century brings an urgent need to apply this vision and ingenuity to the defense of this nation, and you are up to the task."

Until now, there was little reason to make vaccines for diseases that occurred so rarely in the United States, the president said. But the world changed on Sept. 11, 2001.

"The kind of men who would seize planes filled with innocent people and crash them into buildings would not hesitate to use biological or chemical or nuclear weapons," he said.

Faced with the threat of bioterrorism, the nation must now develop and stockpile these treatments, he said. Right now, the only companies willing to make vaccines to combat biological weapons are outside America's borders, Bush said. The two main drug therapies used to treat anthrax, for example, are produced overseas.

"We must rebuild America's capacity to produce vaccines by committing the federal government to the purchase of medicines that combat bioterror," he said.

The government-funded research will also help scientists learn about other diseases. "This could bring great benefits for all of humanity, especially in developing countries, where infectious diseases often go uncontrolled," he added.

Under Project BioShield, the government would have the spending authority to buy huge amounts of the vaccines to meet any emergency, Bush said. U.S. labs would be able to hire experts, get more funding quickly and build facilities to accelerate urgently needed discoveries.

"We'll have a better and safer smallpox vaccine, antibodies to treat botox, sophisticated devices that can confirm a case of anthrax infection almost instantly," Bush said. "We will ensure that promising medicines are available for use in an emergency."

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