Washington Babylon — May 12, 2009, 10:20 am

More on Murtha-Backed Biodefense Facility

I’ve posted several items over the past month on how Congressman John Murtha & friends have been supporting a controversial biodefense facility that would develop and manufacture “vaccines and other medical countermeasures.” When I first started looking into the project, I called all the key players — Murtha; the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), which donates heavily to the congressman; a lobby shop and private investment firm, both in which Murtha’s good friend Jim Ervin has a stake — but none of them provided much information.

Ervin failed to return phone calls, a lobbyist at his firm said the proposal was “in its infancy” and had little more to add, and the congressman’s office deferred questions to UPMC. The latter did reply to some questions, after several weeks, but was relatively tight-lipped. The spokesman there also said the program was only in its earliest stages, and said no decision had been made about where the facility would be built. I had been told by sources that it would be located in Murtha’s district.

But it turns out the facility is further along than any of these people cared to admit. And now another key player has been identified, new Democratic Senator Arlen Specter:

UPMC wants to build a $830 million vaccine manufacturing facility, of which about $580 million would come from the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Defense, which Specter said April 16 that he would help try to secure.

Not only is there a budget for the project, which was also denied by the people I spoke with, but there’s a proposed location as well. The story says the facility would be built in western Pennsylvania, a stretch of territory that includes Murtha’s district.

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