WASHINGTON, Dec. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Jim Greenwood, president and CEO of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), released the following statement on Congress' vote to pass President Bush's National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza, as part of the Department of Defense Appropriations Bill: "The implementation of the President's National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza takes the first step on the path for the US to develop a domestic vaccine industry that will substantially improve our national security and our health security. I applaud the President for his leadership. Today's legislation provides critical resources to stockpile existing therapies and to accelerate the development of new, innovative countermeasures -- the vaccines and antiviral medications that are likely to be more effective against a pandemic flu strain. "This legislation is more than just resources for the government purchase of existing and new therapies. It provides a framework for a comprehensive strategy, a compensation program for potentially injured parties, an infusion of funding and coordination to help develop our nation's vaccine infrastructure, and will lead to the creation of new therapies and prophylaxes. "The plan passed by the Congress is balanced. This legislation does not provide for the same level of liability protection that the industry received as part of the smallpox vaccine program passed by Congress two years ago. However, I am hopeful that the provisions passed in this bill will reduce the risk of frivolous lawsuits, while ensuring that bad conduct is appropriately punished through both government enforcement action and private civil lawsuits for damages. In addition, I look forward to working with Congress to ensure this program is fully funded. "It has become clear during the last few years that our nation's vaccine infrastructure needs to be augmented -- both research and development as well as manufacturing -- and we believe this legislation will provide that impetus. I am optimistic that this plan will lead to opportunities for more companies to enter the vaccine business, increasing the capacity and diversity of our nation's vaccine industry. "Biotechnology companies are the leaders in the production of existing vaccines and therapies and the development of novel countermeasures. BIO member companies, because of their cutting-edge science and innovative research, make an important contribution to pandemic preparedness. "I want to personally acknowledge the important work by the Congress on this legislation -- in particular, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Denny Hastert. Each has worked for years on improving our nation's public health preparedness and national security, both of which will be vastly enhanced due to their strong efforts. "Moreover, this important legislation could not have been achieved without the initiative of the President and Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt. The Administration has had the foresight to develop the President's proposal, which formed the basis for the legislation. As a result, the federal government through this plan will take the steps necessary to ensure we are prepared in the event of an influenza pandemic," Greenwood concluded. BIO represents more than 1,100 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and 31 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products.
SOURCE Biotechnology Industry Organization