U.S. "not completely" prepared for bioattack, expert says

Nicole Lurie, the assistant secretary for Preparedness and Response, told a House subcommittee on Thursday that the nation does "not completely" have the treatments it needs to protect citizens from a biological attack.
Lurie said that a new reauthorization bill up for consideration this fall could be part of the solution, CQ Online News reports. The 2006 Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act will have its renewal debated in both chambers in the fall.
During the initial hearing for the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, Lurie advocated for the establishment of a private nonprofit corporation, known informally as the Strategic Investor Fund, that would invest in companies that are developing countermeasures and drugs against biological attacks or pandemics. The nonprofit entity would operate outside of the government and would act much like a venture capital fund.
Members of the House who asked Lurie questions about the program appeared to support the idea as long as it was not a government agency.

Earlier in the week, Sen., Richard M. Burr (R-N.C.), said that he supports the creation of the strategic investor fund.
“The strategic investor initiative would promote the transition of medical countermeasure development and procurement from a ‘one bug, one drug’ approach to an enterprise capable of responding to any threat at any time,” Lurie said in her testimony, according to CQ Online News.

Lurie said that emergency use authorization, which allows the commissioner of the FDA to allow medical countermeasures to be used on an emergency basis, should be issued on a provisional basis before a disaster strikes. This would help officials to plan ahead and move quickly after an attack.

The panel also discussed two other bills - a measure to add synthetic versions of drugs to the Controlled Substances Act list and a draft bill to enhance the coordination of HHS activities.