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Hatch pushes bioterror bill

WASHINGTON — Worrying that too many bioterror threats do not have adequate vaccines or drug treatments, Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., introduced on Wednesday a bill to offer private firms incentives to develop them.

That includes giving them tax breaks, offering them guaranteed markets and indemnifying them from lawsuits by people who may suffer adverse reactions.

"This bill becomes exponentially more important every day," Hatch said. "With the dangers that our country faces, we should have provided this encouragement for private-sector development of bioterror treatments a long time ago."

Lieberman said, "Our plan harnesses the genius of private sector entrepreneurs to develop bioterror antidotes, saving our government precious dollars while ensuring that we stay one step ahead of us that would do us harm."

The senators said their new proposal is more expansive than one Lieberman first proposed in 2001, and more extensive than President Bush's similar 'BioShield' proposals."

They said the legislation is needed because biotech and pharmaceutical companies otherwise have no established market for bioterror countermeasures, since they would only be used in case of a catastrophe. They said that gives them no incentive to undertake research on their own.

Among incentives offered by the Lieberman-Hatch bill are:

Tax incentives to enable companies to raise money to conduct the research.

A guaranteed and pre-determined market for the countermeasures and intellectual property protections to help companies control products they develop.

An indemnification provision, modeled on the smallpox provision now in law, to protect against lawsuits by those who may suffer adverse reactions.