RealNews

Untested Companies Enlist in U.S. Biodefense

AFTER anthrax spread through the mail in October 2001, the government began a crash program to develop drugs, vaccines and diagnostic tests to protect the nation from biological terrorism. The pharmaceutical industry pledged support. It seemed to be the dawn of a new defense industry, based on genes instead of jets. But with the nation now at war in Iraq, which is presumed to have biological weapons, the efforts to create a vibrant biodefense sector have had only partial success. The United States is certainly better prepared now than it was when the anthrax attacks traumatized the nation. And about 100 biotechnology companies are trying to develop technology for detecting or fighting pathogens that may be used by terrorists or rogue nations. But the companies that have enlisted tend to be small, lured not only by the call of duty but also by government research money at a time when raising money from investors is extremely difficult. While small companies are often innovative, most have never brought a product to market successfully. The effect has been to leave national security against bioterrorism largely in the hands of untested companies. Full Story

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