Paul Rincon / BBC News – 2005-03-07 23:12:03
Over 700 top US scientists have protested at the massive funds being ploughed into studying the handful of organisms considered bioterror threats.
A letter signed by the experts suggests current funding patterns undermine public health and national interests. This is because research funds are being diverted away from germs that are already important causes of disease.
US government funding for research into candidate bioweapons boomed after the anthrax attacks in the Autumn of 2001. Addressed to National Institutes of Health (NIH) director Elias Zerhouni and published in Science magazine, the letter’s 750 signatories include two Nobel laureates.
The protest’s organiser Richard Ebright of Rutgers University in Piscataway says that while grants for potential bioterror agents such as plague, anthrax and tularaemia have skyrocketed, grants for other disease-causing germs and so-called “model organisms” such as Escherichia coli have fallen.
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