Congress to Pass BioShield Legislation
Bio 2003 Convention Center and Exhibition
Washington Convention Center
June 23, 2003
1:08 P.M. EDT
Thanks a lot. Welcome to the nation's capital, and thanks for having me drop
I knew Tommy was here when I saw his Harley Davidson parked out front.
(Laughter.) So I just put my Segway right next to it. (Laughter.)
It is a pleasure to be with so many leaders in such a vital industry. Each
of you is carrying on the incredible work began some 50 years ago by Doctors
Watson and Crick. Since then, biotechnology is advancing knowledge and relieving
suffering. In the years to come, the contributions of your industry will
help us to win the war on terror, will help us fight hunger around the world
and will help us to save countless lives with new medicines.
My administration is committed to working with your industry so that the
great powers of biotechnology can serve the true interests of our nation
Tommy Thompson is the Secretary of Health and Human Services. He is the
point man for this administration on biotechnology and other matters of national
health. And he is doing a fantastic job for America. (Applause.) Thank you,
I want to thank Carl Feldbaum for inviting me and inviting you. I want to
thank the -- and welcome the premiers and ministers and ambassadors and distinguished
guests from around the world who are here today. I want to thank the members
of Congress who are here, some of our nation's governors have joined us today.
I understand the Mayor is here -- I always like to see the Mayor and remind
him that potholes in front of the White House need to be repaired on a regular
I appreciate my Commissioner, the man I named to head the Food and Drug
Administration, Mark McClellan, for his service to the country. (Applause.)
The biotechnology industry finds itself on the front lines of some of the
great challenges of our time. The first challenge is the need to fight terror.
All of us know the great possibilities of modern science, when it is guided
by good and humane purposes. We understand, as well, the terrible harm that
science can do in the hands of evil people.
On September the 11th, 2001 the world saw what terrorists could do with
commercial airliners turned into weapons of mass murder. We know that our
enemies have ambitions to acquire and use biological, chemical and nuclear
weapons. We will not sit idly by as these threats gather, and we will continue
to act before dangers are upon us. The most direct way, the best way of removing
threats to our country is to eliminate them at their source. And that's what
the United States of America has done and we will do by waging a focused,
relentless effort to hunt down any terrorist that would harm the United States
of America and our citizens. (Applause.)
And we're making progress. We have captured or killed many key leaders of
al Qaeda. And the other one knows we're hot on their trail. In Afghanistan
and Iraq, we gave ultimatums to terror regimes. Those regimes chose defiance,
and those regimes are no more. (Applause.)
As we take the battle to the enemy, we must always remember where the battle
began: here in our own country. So we've reorganized government to defend
the homeland -- with greater security at our borders and ports, with more
screeners at airports, and the nation's first environmental sensors, a network
of labs to quickly detect a biological attack.
A key part of our all-out effort to prepare for the threat of bio-terror
is what this administration has called Project Bioshield. I have proposed
that our government spend nearly $6 billion over the next 10 years to speed
the research, production and availability of effective vaccines and treatments
against small pox and anthrax, botulin toxin, E-bola plague and other possible
agents of bioterror.
Under Project BioShield, the government will have the spending authority
to ensure that the most advanced vaccines and treatments are available to
our people. Project BioShield will give our scientific leaders greater authority
and more flexibility in decisions that may affect our national security.
Our labs will be able to hire the right experts, to buy the right equipment
and to speed the construction of the right facilities to accelerate urgently
Like other great scientific efforts, Project BioShield will have applications
beyond its immediate goals. As scientists work to defeat the weapons of bioterror,
I know they will gain new insights into the workings of other diseases. And
this will also break new ground for the search for treatments and cures.
And this, in turn, can provide great benefits for all humanity, especially
in developing countries, where infectious diseases often go uncontrolled.
Your industry must stay involved with this issue. If you're interested in
seeing more flexibility and more research dollars for the sake of national
security, I need your help in lobbying the members of the United States Congress.
And the message is clear: for the sake of our national security, the United
States Congress must pass the BioShield legislation as soon as possible.
Your industry is also helping this country and the world to meet a second
great challenge: sparing millions of people from starvation. America and
other wealthy nations have a special responsibility to combat hunger and
disease in desperate lands. We meet that responsibility with emergency food
in times of crisis. Next year the United States will devote more than a billion
dollars providing food and aid to the hungry. But for the long-term, we must
help troubled nations to avert famine by sharing with them the most advance
methods of crop production.
Through the work of scientists in your field, many farmers in developed
nations are able to grow crops with high resistance to drought and pests
and disease; enable farmers to produce far greater yields per acre. In our
own country, we see the benefits of biotech every day with food prices and
good land conservation practices. Yet, the great advantages of biotechnology
have yet to reach developing nations in Africa and other lands where these
innovations are now most needed.
Acting on unfounded, unscientific fears, many European governments have
blocked the import of all new biotech crops. Because of these artificial
obstacles many African nations avoid investing in biotechnology, worried
that their products will be shut out of important European markets.
For the sake of a continent threatened by famine I urge the European governments
to end their opposition to biotechnology. (Applause.)
We should encourage the spread of safe, effective biotechnology to win the
fight against global hunger. (Applause.)
Finally, your industry is in the forefront of improving health care for
all Americans, and we are grateful. Thanks to biotechnology, we may soon
be able to grow life-saving therapies and useful chemicals in plants. Biotechnology
might allow scientists to produce large amounts of monoclonal antibodies,
which target specific, disease-causing molecules without attacking healthy
cells. We're closing in on the ability to protect and fight against a range
of illnesses, including cancer, and HIV and heart disease.
In coming years we will see further innovations, like insulin, that can
be inhaled rather than administered by a needle. Men and women in your field
are at work on synthetic blood that is free from infections and capable of
being administered to all blood types. New therapies are nearing which will
enable doctors to look at diseases for genetic markers and then give patients
individualized treatments. The future of medicine in the United States of
America is incredibly bright because of your work and your skill and your
Our biotechnology industry is the strongest in the world, and we need to
keep it that way. (Applause.)
And now we have a challenge to make sure that many of the advances you have
made in making sure out health care system can be world-class is extended
to all Americans, especially our senior citizens. (Applause.)
The Medicare system has served seniors well for nearly four decades. Yet,
while medicine has dramatically advanced, Medicare hasn't. The program was
designed at a time when hospital stays were common and drug therapies were
rare. Thanks to your efforts, there are drugs and other treatments that can
dramatically reduce hospital stays which, in turn, improves quality of care
and quality of life. We have a responsibility to improve and strengthen Medicare
by making modern medicine an integral part of the Medicare system, and that
includes prescription drugs for all our seniors. (Applause.)
This is a goal you have supported for several years. And if we finally put
aside partisan politics and focus on what's right for American seniors, I
believe we can achieve the goal this year. (Applause.)
The debate is on in the United States Congress. And I've submitted a framework
for reform that insists that our seniors have choices under Medicare so that
affordable health care plans compete for their business and give them the
coverage they need, not the coverage that a Washington bureaucrat thinks
they need. (Applause.)
The principle of choice, of trusting people to make their own health care
decisions is behind the health plan enjoyed by every person on the federal
payroll, including the members of the United States Congress. All federal
employees get to choose their health care plan. Health care plans compete
for their business. Members of Congress have got excellent choices. If the
choice idea is good enough for the lawmakers, it ought to be good enough
for the seniors of the United States of America. (Applause.)
Seniors who want to stay in the current Medicare system should have that
option, plus a new prescription drug benefit. Seniors who want enhanced benefits,
such as more coverage for their preventative care and other services should
have that choices, as well. Seniors who like the affordability of managed
care plans should be able to enroll in them. And low-income seniors should
receive extra help, so that all seniors will have the ability to choose a
Medicare option that includes prescription drug benefits.
As we pursue Medicare reform, we must make sure that whatever system evolves
does not undermine America's biotechnology industry. We need to keep rewarding
innovation and protecting competition without unnecessary intervention by
the government. When the government determines which drugs are covered by
health insurance and which illnesses are treated, patients face delays and
inflexible limits on coverage. That is a fact. Medicine works best when doctors
and their patients decide what treatments to pursue. (Applause.)
We're making progress on this important issue. The House committee has marked
up legislation. The Senate is actively debating the issue on the floor. We
have a chance to finally modernize Medicare, and I ask for your help. Please
contact your senators and members of the United States House of Representatives,
ask them to take a tough vote, if need be, to modernize a system which needs
to be saved.
And as you make your voices heard on necessary reform for Medicare, make
sure you make your voices heard on making sure that we have legal reform
in America, as well. We sue each other too much in the United States of America.
We passed a medical liability reform bill and a class action reform bill
out of the House of Representatives. These bills are stuck in the United
States Senate. For the sake of a balanced legal system, we need tort reform
in Washington, D.C. (Applause.) And I call upon the United States Senate
to act, to pass meaningful liability and class action suit reforms now. (Applause.)
These are times of great challenge for this country. Our country must continue
to meet the grave dangers of bioterrorism. We've got to continue to work
to help relieve suffering around the world. And we've got to continue to
seek cures to terrible diseases. In all of this, we're relying on the skill
and conscience of scientists in the field of biotechnology.
As men and women of science you have accepted a moral calling to improve
lives and to save lives. That calling also requires a deep respect for the
value of every life. Because even the most noble ends do not justify any
means. This nation is counting on your to serve the true interests of all
humanity. You face great challenges, yet you're an industry who welcomes
challenge. Your hard work and inspiration have produced incredible successes.
You have made us all proud. After all, millions of people are in your debt.
The American people are grateful for your many achievements and we look forward
to the many achievements yet to come.
May God bless your work, and may God continue to bless America. (Applause.)