Future uncertain for Project BioShield

Over the next several months, the U.S. federal government will decide whether or not it will continue to fund Project BioShield, a program designed to expand the U.S. Strategic National Stockpile.

The original act, signed in 2004, authorized the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct and support research and the procurement of medical countermeasures against chemical, radiological or nuclear threats. The bill provided the appropriation of nearly six billion dollars over a ten year span in order to provide a market incentive for pharmaceutical companies to produce MCMs, according to Biotech-Now.org.

Congress established the Biomedical Advanced Research Development Authority in 2006 to oversee the project's advancement, but BARDA's future remains uncertain.

"Because BARDA will likely expend the remainder of the funds by the end of FY 2013, the future of Project BioShield is uncertain," biodefense expert Dr. Robert Kadlec said, CNAS.org reports. "In light of the fiscal realities that the nation faces, it is not clear whether the administration and Congress have the political will to reappropriate funds at the previous levels. If they do, the issue will be whether the amount requested, authorized and appropriated will be sufficient to continue the guaranteed market incentive."

To date, BioShield has aided in the development and procurement of more than 50 million doses of vaccines and drugs to use against CBRN threats. There are approximately 80 candidate products in the BARDA development pipeline, including antimicrobials and rapid diagnostics.

"The capacity and capability of this national security partnership is a strategic hedge against an uncertain future created by the increasing availability of the technologies that would permit potential perpetrators to develop CBRN weapons," Dr. Kadlec said, CNAS.org reports. "Before Project BioShield's funding and authorities expire next year, the president and Congress should affirm its value as an indispensable insurance policy against the risk of CBRN attacks. BioShield has achieved the strategic objectives initially envisioned and merits continued support and funding."