US Senate authorises increased spending on pandemic flu products

By Nick Taylor

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/Dan Meshkov)
(Image: Getty/Dan Meshkov)

Related tags: Us, Vaccines, BARDA

The Senate has passed a bill authorising spending on the development of products to protect the US against pandemic influenza and other biological threats to public health.

Existing US legislation provides scope for federal biodefense programs and agencies to spend money to safeguard against certain risks to public health.

The bill passed by the Senate reauthorises this spending and empowers government agencies to use public money in a wider range of product development, production and procurement activities.

One section of the bill provides the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) with the power to use funding “to support innovative candidate products in preclinical and clinical development that address priority, naturally occurring and man-made threats​,” such as pandemic influenza, and chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear dangers.

Examples of spending covered by the legislation include the research and development of multi-use platform technologies for diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics, plus investments in projects focused on virus seeds, novel virus strains and antigen and adjuvant material.

A related subsection of the legislation tasks the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response with accelerating product development and the build-out of manufacturing capacity – this subsection states $250m (€224m) a year is to be made available to support the increased spending.

Parts of the legislation relating to existing spending provisions also position federal agencies to put more money into biodefense. For example, the annual budget for stockpiling is set to grow 14% to $610m.

A boost for biopharma

The central role vaccines and other biological interventions play in current efforts and future plans to protect the US against pandemic flu and other threats suggest the spending provisions will benefit some biopharma companies.

Recognising that, trade group the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) released a statement welcoming the passage of the bill through the Senate.

This bipartisan legislation will provide critical flexibility and predictability for government agencies and their private sector partners by authorising increased, multi-year funding for the BioShield Special Reserve Fund and by empowering BARDA to better address [chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense threat agents], pandemic influenza, emerging infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance​,” BIO CEO, Jim Greenwood, said.

The US House passed a companion bill by an overwhelming majority at the start of the year, and will now receive the version approved by the Senate to reconcile any differences. Once that is done, the bill will go to President Trump to sign into law.

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