High on the list of plausible threats to humankind are deadly pandemics spread by nasty viruses, either naturally occurring or (shame on our species) manmade. Governments have a duty to protect their citizens from these superbugs and so its good news that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is setting up three biodefense centers, in Maryland, Texas and North Carolina, to develop and produce vaccines quickly to deal with chemical or biological threats.
The North Carolina center has a strong local connection. Duke University, N.C. State University and Novartis, with its impressively large, federally supported vaccine facility in Holly Springs that opened in 2009, will team up to operate the new center. Novartis is getting a four-year, $60 million contract for the work.
No one should need reminding how deadly and disruptive pandemics can be. The news that an apparently drug-immune strain of tuberculosis has surfaced in India underscores the importance of the task that Duke, N.C. State and the vaccine company have undertaken. Consider it a form of species insurance.