A program to develop a new anthrax vaccine, one of the key platforms of the Bush administration's anti-bioterror strategy, has been scuttled after a significant failure. The Washington Post reports today that officials at the Department of Health and Human Services canceled the $877.5 million contract when the company assigned the work missed a deadline to begin human testing. The decision came, the Post says, on the same day that President Bush signed additional legislation designed to keep the program afloat.
The company doing the work, VaxGen, has never successfully created a drug; only a year before it was awarded the contract to produce the anthrax vaccine, its project to create an AIDS vaccine failed. Delisted from the NASDAQ stock exchange in 2004 because of its failure to deliver the proper reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission, this was the company's only contract.