Biodefense and Pandemic Vaccine and Drug Development Act of 2006

Date: Sept. 26, 2006
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Drugs

BIODEFENSE AND PANDEMIC VACCINE AND DRUG DEVELOPMENT ACT OF 2006 -- (House of Representatives - September 26, 2006)


Mr. ROGERS of Michigan. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of H.R. 5533, the Biodefense and Pandemic Vaccine and Drug Development Act of 2006.

I would like to thank Chairman Barton and Chairman Deal and the Energy Committee staff for their continued support on this effort.

I want to thank my colleague and friend, Congresswoman ANNA ESHOO, and her staff for your commitment, your energy, your counsel and your enthusiasm to get this bill as far as we have come. Thank you very much. It has been a joy to work with you.

And I have to say at the time of this intense pre-election partisanship, I am thankful that we might serve as an example to many, that you can reach across the aisle to pass important legislation that affects the American people so deeply as their future security, the security of their children and their families and the well-being of the United States of America. Thank you for working with us. I appreciated the opportunity to do that.

I would also like to recognize the administration and their willingness to work with us to build upon Project BioShield, of which they really led the charge. We found that it was not sufficient, it needed some improvement, but it was very forward leaning of this President to come out and establish for the first time BioShield, knowing that the threat was real from terrorists around the country and trying to develop at least a program that would deal with the bioterror threat to the United States. They have been so willing to work with us in finding out what worked and what did not work and this second round we think improves BioShield dramatically and really has to happen if we are going to have protection against biothreats in the future.

The efforts include both offensive and defensive ways to find new developments and better treatments for those infected by bioterrorist attacks and naturally occurring attacks, as was mentioned by the mention of the bird flu.

The problems that we have discovered in looking at BioShield was that there was no single point of authority within HHS for the advanced research and development of countermeasures and quick procurement decisions, and, really, there is only one customer for these type of vaccines, and this is the place where we found some difficulty. There is really only one customer, and that customer is the people of the United States, the government of the United States. With a single source contract it is very hard to attract venture capital, very hard to get private industry excited about developing something if they did not know where the Federal Government was going to be when it came to purchasing something that we are the only ones that were going to buy it, a hard place to be.

So we came up with the single point of authority to make quick decisions; and the Valley of Death takes a long time, 8 to 12 years, to develop these vaccines, very labor intensive, a lot of intellectual power applied to coming up with the right vaccine to be the right prophylactic for what we know is a bioterrorism or natural-occurring event. That Valley of Death, because we are the single source of those contracts, was very real and stalling what we know is great research to happen for the cure and the development of these vaccines.

Also, we found that it did not motivate academic researchers, drug and vaccine manufacturers and other possible partners to commit substantial resources.

What this bill does, Mr. Speaker, is address all those issues and gives us a framework to go forward and bring out the best in our scientific community, our academic community, our producing community to come up with the right safety net for the protection of the United States when it comes to bioterror threats and natural occurring threats in and around our societies, which we know is already here, bird flu mentioned, but we also know the real threat of bioterrorism as well.

I would hope, Mr. Speaker, that we could encourage the Senate to take our lead here and set aside any partisanship that may arise in the course of this bill in the Senate and take quick action. This really means the safety and security of every family in this country. Bioterrorism is, unfortunately, a reality in 2006 and beyond; and they need to set aside any differences they may have in the Senate and take this bill up. So I would encourage Senate Democrat leadership to do just that.

I would also commend Senator Byrd, who has created this bipartisan product, and urge they move this product as soon as possible. And I would also urge, Mr. Speaker, that this important piece of legislation be passed as quickly as possible.