Between 2001 and the end of this year, the federal government will have spent $60 billion on biodefence efforts, according to analyses from the Center for Biosecurity of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland. The money has helped to modernize the nation’s crumbling public-health system, and BioShield has invested in a stockpile of 20 million doses of smallpox vaccine, 28.75 million doses of #anthrax vaccine and 1.98 million doses of four medicines to treat complications of smallpox, anthrax and botulism. But few researchers or policy-makers seem happy with an arsenal of six drugs that address only three of the potential threats — even if they are among the most serious. “The pipeline we rely on to provide those critical countermeasures — diagnostics, vaccines, antivirals, antibiotics — is full of leaks, choke points and dead ends,” said Kathleen Sebelius, US Secretary of Health and Human Services, in a statement last year.
Critics say that the effort has been hobbled by a lack of strategic thinking, focus and coordination between the federal agencies involved, and by unrealistic expectations of what the money could buy. “There was no evidence that they looked at what our top priorities are and asked, ’What’s needed on the basic-science side?’, ’What’s needed on the development side?’, and ’What’s needed in the stockpile?’,” says Andrew Pavia, an infectious-diseases doctor at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Until earlier this year, Pavia served on the National Biodefense Science Board, which advises the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and in March last year released a report, Where Are The Countermeasures?, that was critical of the federal biodefence effort.