The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, chaired by Senator Lamar Alexander, will hold an important hearing today to examine lessons learned from the current global health crisis to help make sure we are better prepared for the next pandemic. Public health expert and patient advocate, Dr. Julie Gerberding, will join the discussion, alongside former top policy leaders.
The biopharmaceutical industry is racing to eradicate COVID-19, with nearly 600 programs currently underway to combat the deadly virus, including more than 150 vaccine programs, more than 180 antiviral treatments and more than 250 therapies to treat the various consequences of COVID-19 infection.
As these important efforts continue, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) has been working closely with its members to identify policy priorities intended to ensure the United States is better prepared for future pandemics. As BIO’s Phyllis Arthur, Vice President for Infectious Diseases and Diagnostics, said in advance of today’s hearing:
“Being better prepared for the next pandemic must be a top priority for our nation, and today’s hearing will help create the type of policy environment needed to make that possible. Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray are to be applauded for their leadership, and we look forward to answering Chairman Alexander’s call for input with a comprehensive set of recommendations that will help ensure our nation is better prepared for future infectious disease outbreaks and other biosecurity threats.”
As today’s important hearing gets underway, here are three key areas for Congressional leaders to explore:
- Ensuring a Functioning Market: As the major purchaser for biodefense countermeasures and drugs to address public health emergencies, a well-resourced, stable, and strategically managed Strategic National Stockpile is critical to ensuring continued private investment in the research and development of new vaccines and treatments. Any changes to strategy surrounding the Strategic National Stockpile must account for the unique breadth and nature of resources that could be stockpiled to prepare for a wide range of emergencies.
- Strengthening Public-Private Partnerships: Maintaining the unique partnership between private industry and various public agencies is vital to our nation’s long-term emergency preparedness. Both the private and the public sectors play unique and vital roles that must be strengthened through continued engagement and collaboration. In particular, robust funding is needed for public-private partnerships focused on the research and development and manufacturing infrastructure for a broad range of potential vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics. In addition, dedicated funding and incentives for the development of new therapies that address emerging infectious disease and antimicrobial resistance also is an important component of any long-term strategy.
- Manufacturing Capacity: We need a strong U.S. biopharmaceutical manufacturing infrastructure for vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, with appropriate incentives to expand domestic capacity in critical areas. But we must also recognize that relying solely on domestic manufacturing may not be feasible in the short-term and may not be appropriate in all instances given the importance of maintaining a robust and resilient global supply chain.