President speaks of new bioterror initiative in State of the Union

In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama promised to take steps to ensure that a faster threat is ensured against the threat of bio-terrorism.

"We are launching a new initiative that will give us the capacity to respond faster and more effectively to bio-terrorism or an infectious disease – a plan that will counter threats at home, and strengthen public health abroad," Obama said.

No further details of the initiative were offered during the speech, though the White House did issue a statement saying that medical contingency plans would be redesigned to allow for the quick delivery of drugs in the event of a major biological attack of infectious disease.

"Market forces" would be taken advantage of by the initiative, which would enlist both the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries to reduce the risks of biological weapons.

The announcement comes on the heels of a bipartisan panel's warning that sufficient action has not been taken by the government to respond to the threat of a biological attack. The White House has strongly disagreed with the assessment.

Some in Congress and the panel also criticized Obama for an attempt to transfer funds from Project BioShield to pandemic influenza preparedness.

Project BioShield is the principal federal program that allows for the procurement of medical countermeasures. Established in 2004, it purchases vaccines and countermeasures from private industry to defend against deadly pathogens.