By David E. Hoffman
ABSTRACT: ANNALS OF SCIENCE about the Pentagon’s reaction to the swine flu virus. On Tuesday night, April 28, 2009, Darrell Galloway, a senior official at the Pentagon’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency, watched a news report from Mexico City about a new strain of influenza known as swine flu that was spreading fast. That night, Galloway, a microbiologist, resolved to do something about it. He was authorized by the military to work on a specific set of threatening diseases that were considered potential weapons in war or in terrorism, including anthrax, smallpox, plague, and the Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic fevers. Influenza was outside his focus, but the next morning, Galloway summoned his staff and announced that they were to begin work immediately on creating a new antiviral drug to combat swine flu. Between 2001 and 2010, Congress approved fifty billion dollars to protect against biological threats. In 2006, the Pentagon ordered an unusual five-year research initiative to counter germs being used as weapons of war or terror, and assigned Galloway to launch it. Instead of targeting pathogens one by one, the initiative would seek to invent therapeutic drugs and vaccines that could counter multiple germs. They would also develop new processes that could be used to quickly create drugs and vaccines to fight previously unknown pathogens. The effort became known as the Transformational Medical Technologies Initiative (T.M.T.I.). Galloway faced huge obstacles. Bringing a new drug or vaccine from laboratory to market in the U.S. can take ten to fifteen years and cost more than a billion dollars.