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Is Biodefense funding causing a public health crisis?

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posted on Mar, 2 2005 @ 12:18 PM
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This is an issue that hits close to home for me, as most of my current salary is paid via biodefense funding.


Original Source: Nature (though a subscription is needed to access this article. If you want a copy u2u me and I can email a .pdf.)

Hundreds of US biologists have signed a letter protesting at what they see as the excessive use of bacteriology funds for the study of bioterror threats. The letter, which reflects growing unease among researchers, was due to be delivered this week to managers at the National Institutes ofHealth (NIH),US lawmakers and the leaders of seven scientific societies.

Its 750 signers include two Nobel laureates and seven past presidents of the American Society for Microbiology. The protest was organized by molecular biologist Richard Ebright of Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey. In the letter, Ebright writes that the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) awarded 15 times more biodefence grants between the beginning of 2001 and the end of 2004 than it awarded during the previous fouryear period. Meanwhile, Ebright says, the agency cut grants to study non-biodefence models, such as Escherichia coli, by 41% and grants to study non-biodefence microbes that cause disease by 27%. He argues that this shift is preventing important advances in science and public health, and actually increases the risk of a bioterorrism incident.

Not just funders but investigators are shifting their focus to biodefence-related microbes, it seems. “We have become unbalanced,” says Martha Howe of the University of Tennessee in Memphis, a past president of the American Society for Microbiology. Researchers are just not making the basic science applications, she explains. Ebright further stated that “The main constraint that is placing pressure on all other components [infectious disease research] is the biodefence budget,”


I personally have observed and been caught up in this growing trend. Most researchers I know ARE shifting away from infectious disease research and moving into bioterrorism, simply because that’s where the funding is. The company I work for has been pretty much transformed from the goal of early cancer detection to bioterrorist agent detection. This trend is not likely to end soon provided the culture of fear that is currently being cultivated in this country, and will likely become more pronounced in the near future. The NIH is also considering slashing funds for HIV research and shifting the monies over to biodefense.




posted on Mar, 2 2005 @ 12:30 PM
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Would not increased capabilities to detect Bioweapons and Chemical Weapons have dual use purposes?



posted on Mar, 2 2005 @ 12:52 PM
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Originally posted by sardion2000
Would not increased capabilities to detect Bioweapons and Chemical Weapons have dual use purposes?


No... detection technologies are very specialized, and generally use well-established techniques in a new format or new device. Detection technologies could spill over into diagnostics, but researchers are concerned less about detection and more about combatting disease. These are disparate areas of 'bacteriology.'



 
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