Burr to Hold Hearing on Bioterrorism Preparedness

Duke University professor among expert witnesses to testify

June 7, 2005

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Richard Burr, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Bioterrorism and Public Health Preparedness, will hold a hearing to focus on the challenges small and medium-sized biotech companies face in developing biodefense countermeasures. The hearing, "Crossing the Valley of Death: Bringing Promising Medical Countermeasures to Bioshield," will be held Thursday, June 9, at 2:00 PM, in Room 430 Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.

Small and medium-sized biotech companies are conducting novel and promising research for development of countermeasures used for biodefense against natural, accidental and deliberate biological agents. Thursday's hearing will examine current efforts to develop medical countermeasure and explore what additional measures might be needed to assist later stage development.

"Strengthening our defenses against biological threats is critical to winning the war on terror and ensuring the public is safe from biological agents," said Senator Burr. "We must encourage the development of countermeasures against these threats and ensure the government's investment is getting more and better countermeasures ready faster."

Duke University Associate Professor of Medicine Dr. Richard Frothingham is one of eight experts who will testify before the subcommittee. Dr. Frothingham conducts vaccine research and will provide first hand insight into biodefense work conducted at Duke where researchers are working on improved vaccines against plague and have recently published breakthrough work on an AIDS vaccine.

Two panels of experts will testify at the hearing. The first panel includes Dr. John Vitko, Director of the Department of Homeland Security's Homeland Security Science and Technology Advisory Committee; Dr. Joe Palma, Medical Director for the Chemical/Biological Defense Programs in the Office of the Deputy Assistant to the Secretary of Defense; The Honorable Dr. William F. Raub, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Health Emergency Preparedness; and Dr. Carol Heilman, Director of Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. The second panel features Alan P. Timmins, President of AVI BioPharma; Dr. Frothingham; Dr. Phillip Russess, U.S. Army Major General (Ret.); and David P. Wright, President and Chief Executive Officer of PharmAthene.