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Making Appropriations for Science, the Departments of State, Justice, and Commerce, and Related Agencies for Fiscal Year 2006

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Location: Washington, DC


MAKING APPROPRIATIONS FOR SCIENCE, THE DEPARTMENTS OF STATE, JUSTICE, AND COMMERCE, AND RELATED AGENCIES FOR FISCAL YEAR 2006 -- (Senate - September 14, 2005)

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, this week world leaders are meeting at the United Nations to reaffirm the commitments made five years ago under the United Nations Millennium Declaration, including the commitment to halt and begin to reverse by the year 2015 the spread of HIV/AIDs, malaria, and other major diseases that claim the lives of millions of people around the world every year. We still have a long way to go if we are going to meet this challenge.

AIDS, which has already claimed the lives of 20 million people, continues to be the leading cause of premature death in sub-Saharan Africa. An estimated 39 million people worldwide are infected with HIV. Last year alone, 4.9 million people were newly infected with HIV, and 3.1 million died. For years, the epidemic was focused on sub-Saharan Africa, but now HIV is spreading fastest in Central Europe and in parts of Asia.

Although the AIDS pandemic has gripped the world's notice, other diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis have drawn less attention--but they too are deadly, particularly for those in the world's poorest countries. Malaria claims the lives of a million people annually, many of them young children; ninety percent of these deaths occur among people living in sub-Saharan Africa. Tuberculosis, once thought to be eradicated, has reemerged in new and more drug resistant strains. An estimated 1.7 million people now die annually from TB. Because those living with HIV or AIDS are particularly vulnerable, the number of TB cases has been growing rapidly in sub-Saharan Africa and Central Europe.

Taken together HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria kill over 5 million people annually. A human crisis of this proportion demands that we respond with urgency and thoughtfulness. We must continue to support robust prevention, treatment and care programs. But we must also recognize that vaccines are the most effective weapons in the arsenal of modern medicine to stop the threat of AIDS and other infectious diseases that are decimating the developing world. Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, however, are reluctant to invest in research for vaccines for these diseases because they fear that the market will not be lucrative enough to cover the costs of research and development

The bill that I am introducing today, Vaccines for the New Millennium Act of 2005, is designed to address this problem by providing incentives for these companies to accelerate their efforts to develop vaccines and microbicides to prevent HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria and other neglected diseases. It builds upon legislation that I introduced in 2001 with Senator Frist. I am pleased that the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Lugar, is joining me in introducing this new, expanded bill.

The bill provides a variety of economic incentives. First, it mandates that the Secretary of the Treasury enter into negotiations with the World Bank, the International Development Association, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations, and other interested parties in order to establish advanced market commitments, AMCs, for the purchase of vaccines and microbicides to combat neglected diseases. Research has shown that the major obstacle to the development of vaccines for these diseases is the absence of a market because these diseases hit hardest in poor countries that cannot afford to buy the vaccines. Advanced market commitments AMCs are designed to remove this obstacle by creating the market ahead of time. AMCs would be legally binding contracts to purchase a vaccine or microbicide at a fair market price for a guaranteed number of treatments, thereby creating a market incentive for a company to invest in the development and production of vaccines for these diseases. The international framework for the AMCs would also include clearly defined requirements for eligible vaccines to ensure that they are safe and effective as well as clearly defined and transparent rules of competition. The bill also mandates that the Secretary establish a purchase fund in the Treasury as soon as a vaccine to combat one of these diseases is available.

Second, the bill supplements the market incentive with a variety of tax incentives designed to provide appropriate and equitable incentives to both large pharmaceutical and small private sector companies to stimulate vaccine development. The bill provides a 30 percent tax credit each year on qualified research expenses to develop microbicides for HIV and vaccines for HIV, TB, malaria and other neglected diseases that kill more than 1 million people annually. This is an expansion of the existing R&D tax credit and can be applied to clinical trials outside of the United States, since the majority of those infected with these diseases are beyond our borders.

It provides a refundable tax credit to small biotechnology companies based on the amount of qualified research that they do in a given year. This credit is designed to stimulate research among the firms that are the most innovative and to ensure that assistance is given to those small companies that need it the most. Increased research efforts by these firms could be instrumental to the effort to develop effective vaccines for neglected diseases, particularly for HIV/AIDS.

And it provides a 100 percent tax credit on contracts and other arrangements for research and development of these vaccines and microbicides. This credit, which is an increase over the 65 percent credit now in the tax code, is designed to serve as an incentive to larger pharmaceutical companies to work hand in hand with the smaller biotech companies to pick up the pace of vaccine development.

Once vaccines are developed, it is imperative that they be widely distributed. The bill that I am introducing today with Senator Lugar also addresses the distribution side of the equation. It provides a 100 percent tax credit to companies on the sales of new vaccines and microbicides as long as those sales are made to a qualified international health organization or foreign government for distribution in developing countries

Finally, the bill sets up a pilot program under the Small Business Act to encourage the development of vaccines and microbicides by eligible companies under the auspices of the Small Business Innovation Research, SBIR, and the Small Business Technology Transfer, STTR, programs in US government agencies with a global health or disease prevention mission. Under this pilot program, these agencies have new authority to undertake outreach activities to eligible biotech firms and other small business to promote the objectives of the pilot program.

In recent years, a number of pharmaceutical companies have taken steps to help in the treatment of those infected with AIDS by providing life-extending therapies to the developing world at reduced costs. These drugs are critically important but the war against AIDS cannot be won unless we develop vaccines against the HIV virus and other neglected diseases. The pharmaceutical and biotech companies hold the key

Many steps need to be taken in the war against these diseases. This bill focuses on only one area but a critically important one: vaccine development and distribution. If the public and private sectors work together with energy and commitment, I believe we can develop the vaccines, and once developed, we will win the war against these deadly diseases that victimize so many in the developing world.

I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, today I am introducing the Communications Security Act of 2005. The events of 9/11 uncovered manifest structural weaknesses in our communications system, which were then highlighted by the 9/11 Commission. At the time, public safety and emergency response officials were not able to communicate at a basic level. We have not taken adequate steps to fix that dangerous problem, and Hurricane Katrina has bluntly demonstrated that. Much of the communications system was knocked off-line along the Gulf Coast. It was remarkable to watch as the television news crews had better luck communicating than our first responders. As the disaster unfolded, our first responders and emergency officials repeatedly cited communications failures as a major obstacle to the disaster response effort.

We need a redundant communications system that will work in times of emergency. Dramatic advances in technology and the availability of new spectrum as part of the DTV transition offer opportunities to address this problem. The Communications Security Act of 2005 requires the technical experts at the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Communications Commission evaluate the feasibility and cost of deploying a back-up emergency communications system. The agencies will evaluate all reasonable options, including satellites, wireless and terrestrial-based systems. They will evaluate all available public and private resources that could provide such a system and submit a report to Congress detailing the findings. The DHS is then authorized to request appropriations to implement the system. Congress would then be in position to put in place whatever programs and funding are needed to get the job done.

This proposal will not resolve all of our long-term needs in preparedness and interoperability, and I am pleased that many of my colleagues are working on the various pieces of this puzzle. However, in the interim, we must ensure that we can respond in emergency situations with an eye toward building a reliable, redundant system for the long term.

I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.

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