There isn’t a vaccine for Ebola, but should one emerge, we may have the Bush Administration to thank.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney became very fearful of bioterrorism after 9/11, when rumors surfaced that anthrax was going to be hidden in our mail.
Later that year, Cheney asked Congress to devote billions of dollars to finding cures for an array of lethal viruses, one of which was Ebola.
Funding from the Department of Defense at this time went in part to the lab of Ebola expert Thomas Geisbert, who helped develop a drug made by Tekmira Pharmaceuticals Corporation that has since cured an American aid worker.
The research for two other possible vaccinations being tested came from the DoD’s funds as well.
Congress passed a law in 2004 called Project BioShield, which gave drug companies $5.6 billion to stock up on drugs that fight deadly diseases and boosted funding for research.
At least seven of the drugs currently being tested were created after the law was passed, and some of those are vaccines for Ebola.
It’s also because of this law and the earlier funding, according to Bloomberg, that the National Institute of Health’s budget for finding a cure for Ebola went from $840,000 in 2000 to $42.5 million in 2013.
The steady increase in NIH funds went to several drug companies currently testing Ebola vaccinations.
Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., makers of the experimental drug ZMapp that helped cure American patients Dr. Kenneth Brantly and Nancy Writebol, was able to receive $10 million from the NIH between 2005 and 2010.
The NIH gave Johnson & Johnson $30 million in 2008 to work on its own experimental vaccine, and BioCryst Pharmaceuticals Inc. received $22 million from the NIH last year for a vaccination to be tested later this year.
Randy Larsen, the executive director of the Congressional Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, told Bloomberg,
We wouldn’t be where we are with a vaccine or ZMapp if it were not for our biodefense program.
The only regret is that more wasn’t devoted to bioterrorism at the time, since $5.6 billion isn’t exactly a lot of money these days for big drug companies.
According to Bloomberg, these companies can rake in several billion dollars in a matter of months following the release of a new product.
via Bloomberg, Photo Credit: Getty Images