BROOKS, ESHOO INTRODUCE BIPARTISAN LEGISLATION TO BOLSTER BIOTHREAT PREPAREDNESS
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Representatives Susan W. Brooks (R-Ind.) and Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.) have introduced bipartisan legislation that will dramatically transform and enhance the nation’s ability to respond to current and emerging biothreats. The Strengthening Public Health Emergency Response Act of 2015 reforms our nation’s medical countermeasure acquisition process, incentivizes research to combat the next generation of deadly diseases, and increases accountability of preparedness spending.
“Our nation is dangerously ill prepared to combat current and emerging biothreats,” Brooks said. “In fact, the most recent Biothreat report card issued by the nonpartisan WMD Terrorism Research Center gave us 15 F’s in assessing our levels of preparedness. We are extremely vulnerable to threats posed by terrorist groups and rogue nations stockpiling bioweapons. Moreover, the recent Ebola crisis taught us just how unsatisfactory our defense mechanisms are for global pandemics originating in other parts of the world. This legislation will transform and improve our ability to respond to these threats by ensuring effective vaccines are developed and available when disaster strikes.”
“Any gaps in our biodefense preparedness regime are simply unacceptable,” said Eshoo, who authored legislation in 2006 to create BARDA. “In the wake of the most recent Ebola outbreak in western Africa, we know firsthand how unchecked threats can result in severe and deadly consequences. This bipartisan bill takes steps to ensure that this scenario will not be a reality for Americans. It reforms and modernizes our nation’s leading biodefense agency, and it keeps our country at the cutting edge of medical countermeasure acquisition and development.”
"Over the last decade, the level of cooperation between government entities and private sector partners has improved and our level of preparedness has increased. But we must move beyond the status quo to meet the new challenges we face,” said Paul Chaplin, President & CEO of Bavarian Nordic and Alliance for Biosecurity Co-Chair. “The Alliance for Biosecurity believes the legislation introduced by Congresswomen Susan Brooks and Anna Eshoo will help the country move beyond the current status with new medical countermeasures research incentives, increased transparency, and predictable and flexible contracting mechanisms and we commend the Congresswomen for introducing the Strengthening Public Health Emergency Response Act of 2015.”
The legislation takes several significant steps to enhance biothreat preparedness by:
- Modifying the tropical disease Priority Review Voucher (PRV) program to include all material threats identified by DHS, such as anthrax, Ebola, botulism, and smallpox. Current PRV programs have successfully encouraged R&D in other challenging disease areas, such as tropical and rare pediatric diseases. However, the 13 deadly pathogens identified by DHS as material threats to our national security are not included in this vital program. This provision would incentivize more research and development of medical countermeasures for the most dangerous pathogens around the world.
- Requiring the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and the CDC to coordinate Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) efforts. BARDA and CDC must work together to avoid any readiness gaps that could be created if the agencies have conflicting stockpiling priorities. The legislation ensures coordination of these efforts as products transition from the advanced research and development phase to the approval phase.
- Eliminating unnecessary delays in procurement of medical countermeasures by streamlining the BARDA contracting process. Layers of bureaucracy are bogging down critical procurement contracts, making it harder for manufacturers to partner with the U.S. government on countermeasure development. The legislation allows BARDA to manage its own contracts rather than placing this responsibility with the Office of Acquisitions Management, Contracts and Grants. The current cumbersome arrangement has created confusion, unnecessary delays, and uncertainty regarding time sensitive national security countermeasure contracts.
- Significantly increasing spending accountability measures to ensure preparedness dollars are flowing to local entities and being used effectively. Right now, 7-10 percent of Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) funds are used for administrative overhead. This amounts to $60 million over three years that should have flowed directly to states and hospitals. The legislation ensures no more than 3 percent of funds are used for administrative overhead moving forward. It also requires the Government Accountability Office to conduct a review of HPP and Public Health Emergency Preparedness grants to ensure funds are being appropriately targeted to the right causes.
To read the legislation in its entirety, BROOIN_004_xml.pdf.
For more information on Representative Susan W. Brooks, click here. For more information on Representative Anna Eshoo, click here.