HHS: U.S. needs $200M biodefense fund

A new report issued by the Department of Health and Human Services calls for the formation of a $200 million bioterrorism and pandemic defense fund. Separately, and expert panel commissioned by President Obama recommended that the U.S. spend $1 billion a year modernizing its vaccine manufacturing capabilities.

The recommendations come after the H1N1 virus claimed 13,000 American lives. Both reports suggest the U.S. should move away from the slow egg-based vaccine manufacturing method to faster cell-culture systems and recombinant vaccines. HHS said it would use almost $2 billion in preparedness funds to:

  • strengthen regulatory science at the FDA with a $170 million investment;
  • develop flexible vaccine manufacturing;
  • support early-stage discoveries in the private sector;
  • upgrade flu vaccine manufacturing methods; and
  • found a $200 million strategic investment fund for new countermeasure technologies.

"Today, we really don't know where our next public health crisis is going to come from," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius noted, as quoted by Bloomberg. "...Our nation must have a system that is nimble and flexible enough to produce countermeasures quickly."

For it's part, President Obama's council said federal agencies should work with vaccine makers to support new research and modernize the existing manufacturing process. It also recommended that vaccines contain adjuvants--chemicals added to vaccines to make them more potent, thus stretching the national vaccine supply. Adjuvants were not used in H1N1 shots because the government feared people would avoid receiving the vaccine as the adjuvants hadn't yet been approved by the FDA.

- here's the HHS release on the countermeasures
- read the Bloomberg story for more 
- check out the Seattle Times story