NEWS SCAN: Fighting bioterrorism, ricin vaccine, food registry report, cholera aid

Jan 21, 2011

Dynamic, integrated effort called for to fight chemical, biological terrorism
Acknowledging that the Department of Defense (DoD) will continuously be playing catch-up in identifying and responding to emerging chemical and biological (CB) weaponized agent threats, a report released today by the Rand Corporation urges the DoD's Chemical and Biological Defense Program (CBDP) to augment efforts to combat such agents. The report, calling for dynamic programs integrated with other DoD efforts in counterproliferation, said improvements can be made by adding a second track to the CBDP's current agent-specific science and technology efforts. It said the second track should focus on the mechanisms of the effects of CB agents and their interactions with the environment. "The goal of the resulting robust combination of CBDP defense, dissuasion, and deterrence is to induce great doubts in adversaries about the value of employing any CB agents or developing new CB agents," the report states. It calls for developing a list of potential new CB agent threats based on intelligence, prioritizing those agents to determine defense requirements, and developing ways to defend against those agents.
Jan 21 Rand report

Ricin vaccine receives FDA orphan drug status
Soligenix, a biopharmaceutical company based in Princeton, N.J., announced yesterday that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted orphan drug status to RiVax, the company's vaccine for preventing ricin intoxication in the event of a potential bioterror attack. The vaccine contains a recombinant subunit of the A chain of ricin toxin, which has been shown to induce ricin neutralizing antibodies in humans and animals. Soligenix published the results of a phase 1A trial in 2006 showing that the vaccine was safe and protective, and a phase 1B trial using a more potent formulation of the vaccine is under way. Christopher J. Schaber, PhD, the company's president and CEO, said in a press release that the company was eager to develop the vaccine for civilian and military biodefense purposes, along with the possibility of government stockpiling. There are currently no drugs or vaccines to prevent ricin intoxication.
Jan 20 Soligenix press release

FDA reviews first year of Reportable Food Registry
The FDA today released a review of the first year of its new Reportable Food Registry (RFR), which it says helped it track food and feed adulteration patterns, better target inspection resources, and prevent foodborne illnesses. The FDA launched the registry, an electronic portal designed to prevent foodborne illnesses in real-time by speeding response at the first positive test for contamination, in September 2009. In its first year the registry received 229 primary reports, 1,872 follow-up reports, and 139 amended reports. Both domestic and foreign food sources filed reports with the registry, according to a press release today from the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN). The data drew attention to two particular hazards: (1) Salmonella in spices and seasonings, raw produce, animal and pet feed, and nut and seed products, and (2) allergens in bakery goods, dried fruits and vegetables, prepared foods, dairy products, and candy. Michael Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods, said in the press release, "Several key US industries are already re-evaluating their hazard and preventive controls, core principles of the Food Safety Modernization Act recently passed by Congress. We also anticipate improved reporting as we continue our vigorous outreach to food facilities through federal, state, local and foreign agencies, to help us expand the positive effect of the RFR on the safety of the US food supply."
Jan 21 CFSAN press release
FDA RFR annual report

World Bank approves $15 million in Haitian cholera aid
The World Bank this week approved a $15 million grant for assisting Haiti in fighting cholera, the agency announced in a Jan 18 press release. The effort, part of the World Bank's $479 million reconstruction aid, is intended to boost the country's medical response to its cholera epidemic while expanding future capacity to monitor for and prevent such outbreaks. Haiti's minister of finance, Ronald Baudin, said in the release, "The continued support of the World Bank will be key for saving lives and re-establishing the public health service network." Since the epidemic began in October, about 149,000 people have fallen ill from the disease and more than 3,000 people have died, according to United Nations data.
Jan 18 World Bank press release

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