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Report outlines steps needed to lessen smallpox threat

new ways of operating with these companies. According to Harrison, one idea that was discussed was whether the government could provide contractual funding for development of the antiviral drugs and guarantee a market for them.

"The Department of Defense has a lot of experience with commissioning such products and acting as the sole market for them," said Harrison. "But the federal health agencies do not, so we recognized that such arrangements would require significant changes in how they interact with industry."

The report emphasized that there is a basic lack of knowledge about the smallpox virus's machinery and why it is pathogenic to humans. However, that same machinery promises a multitude of targets for antiviral drugs, wrote the authors. "Overall, it was clear to everyone that the intricate, highly specialized process of variola replication provides a wealth of scientific opportunities for the development of new drugs that should be able to stop viral infection without damaging normal human tissues," wrote National Academy of Sciences President Bruce Alberts and Institute of Medicine President Harvey Fineberg in an editorial, also posted in the early online edition of PNAS. Alberts and Fineberg are co-authors of the report, as are HHMI investigators Michael O'Donnell at The Rockefeller University and Peter Walter at the University of California, San Francisco. According to the report, antiviral drugs against smallpox are needed because vaccines produce substantial side effects. Furthermore, the development of antiviral drugs against smallpox could deter rogue states or terrorists from releasing the virus because its impact would be diminished.

"We are certain that such antiviral drugs are feasible, because there has been a clear proof of principle with drugs against HIV and herpes," said Harri
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Contact: Jim Keeley
keeleyj@hhmi.org
301-215-8858
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
12-Jul-2004


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