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Senators Talent and Graham: Time to Act on Threat of Biological Terrorism

January 6, 2016
Last Friday in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Former Senators Jim Talent and Robert Graham wrote about the growing threat of biological attacks and threats and steps our nation can take to help prepare for them, including some of the recommendations in the report of the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense, on which BIO President and CEO Jim Greenwood serves.
The first step is to stockpile the medical countermeasures that will be necessary in the event of a biological event, whether that event occurs naturally or is the result of terrorism. The Blue Ribbon Panel calls on the government to prioritize funding for MCMs such as vaccines, diagnostics, antibiotics and other medicines so that we can adequately prevent or respond to biothreats.

Beyond funding, the Blue Ribbon Panel also calls for the U.S. government to explore additional ways to attract pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to invest in MCMs. The Medical Countermeasure Innovation Act (S. 2055) and the Strengthening Public Health Emergency Response Act (H.R. 3299), introduced in 2015 by Sens. Richard Burr and Robert Casey and Reps. Susan Brooks and Anna Eshoo, respectively, are a place for Congress to begin carrying out the Blue Ribbon Panel’s recommendations. Both bills would institute a number of the recommendations, including streamlining the government’s MCM contracting process, and propose new incentives for MCM developers, such as extending priority review vouchers to products addressing biological agents deemed “material threats.” Passing these bills would represent Congress’ commitment to innovation and a strong start to implementing the panel’s recommendations.

We urge Congress and the Obama administration to work in our nation’s best interest and act quickly. It is only a matter of time before we experience a catastrophic attack or pandemic. Maintaining an adequate stockpile of countermeasures is by no means the only step which should be taken to prepare, but without it nothing else can be effective. As bad as the Paris attacks were, they will seem a small thing if terrorists acquire and weaponize biological agents and our government is not ready to respond.

Read the full piece here.