Washington Editor

WASHINGTON - The National Institutes of Health expects to spend portions of its proposed $1.7 billion bioterrorism budget testing vaccines for threats such as anthrax, smallpox and botulism.

Last week, the institute released a report National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Counter-Bioterrorism Research Agenda for CDC Category A Agents describing the proposed accelerated research program for bioterrorism.

Category A agents are anthrax, smallpox, plague, tularemia, viral hemorrhagic fevers and botulism, the most threatening diseases because they are easily spread and could cause public panic, the NIH said in a prepared statement.

Sam Perdue, a spokesman for the Bethesda, Md.-based NIH, told BioWorld Today that there will be opportunities for academic and government-industry research funding. “There’s a lot to do we’ve been doing this type of research for a long time, but funding in accelerated programs will now increase because of Sept. 11.”

The report is based on funding from President Bush’s proposed $2.13 trillion fiscal 2003 national budget, which includes a $1.2 billion increase in bioterrorism funding for the NIAID, an arm of the NIH. (See BioWorld Today, Feb. 6, 2002.)

“In recent years, we have witnessed several emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases that have presented us with many of the same challenges as bioterrorism, namely identifying changing threats and preparing for them to appear at any time,” Anthony Fauci, NIAID director, said in a prepared statement. “In addition, people lack immunity to emerging diseases and effective treatments are not always known. The influx of resources and renewed energy into infectious diseases research will no doubt help us enormously in tackling naturally occurring illnesses such as drug-resistant tuberculosis and influenza.”

In the report, the NIH divides Category A research into six areas:

Microbial biology. Increased basic research, which includes sequencing of each microbe’s genome, will help provide information needed to develop new drugs and vaccines.

Human immune response. More research in this area could lead to development of safe and potent vaccines, highly accurate diagnostic tests and broadly acting drugs that boost the overall immunity to numerous pathogens.

Vaccines. The NIH says new Ebola and anthrax vaccines are poised to enter human testing, while research on improved smallpox and tularemia vaccines is ongoing. Since Sept. 11, the government has commissioned a study to determine whether the 15 million doses of smallpox vaccine currently owned by the U.S. can be diluted to 75 million doses. Several weeks ago, Fauci said the study went well, and the results should be released soon. (See BioWorld Today, Feb. 21, 2002.)

Treatments. Scientists can use information from basic studies of a microbe’s biology and genetic makeup to develop compounds that specifically destroy certain organisms or toxins.

Diagnostics. The NIH says early warning and diagnostic tests are a key part of fighting bioterrorism in that information on a pathogen’s sensitivity to certain drugs can help physicians treat patients.

Research resources. NIAID will provide resources by building necessary facilities, establishing collaborations with industry and training new scientists with varying expertise.

For information on bioterrorism-related funding opportunities, visit the NIAID website at www.niaid.nih. gov/dmid/bioterrorism. The report can be viewed at www.niaid.gov/dmid/pdf/biotresearch agenda.pdf.

DOD Deadline Nears For Breast Cancer Funding

The Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program has Biotechnology Clinical Partnership Awards funding available through the fiscal 2002 appropriation of $150 million.

Funding primarily is earmarked for Phase I or Phase II clinical trials in breast cancer therapeutics or chemoprevention.

According to a statement released by the DOD, the goal is to establish partnerships between the biotechnology industry and academic institutions “that will reduce the drug development challenges faced by many biotechnology companies, and accelerate development of novel breast cancer therapeutics and chemopreventives.”

For more information, visit http://cdmrp.army.mil/ funding/.