When President Bush told drug companies he planned to spend $5.6 billion over 10 years to build a medical arsenal against biological terrorism, the program’s backers promised it would radically alter the economics of biodefense. Companies, they said, would no longer be able to complain that no reliable buyer exists for complex treatments to counter agents such as anthrax, botulism, ebola and plague. By promising to buy finished products, rather than just funding early research as it had in the past, the government would create a guaranteed market for bioterror-fighting medicines. But three months later, many biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies say the plan known as Project Bioshield may not be radical enough. Enthusiasm for the concept of a government-driven market is nearly unanimous within the industry, and dozens of companies have pledged their support. But executives say that, given the financial and legal hazards of developing drugs, vaccines and diagnostic tests for deadly pathogens, they want a higher guaranteed profit and fewer restrictions than the current proposal would offer. Full Story
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