U.S. Sen. Baldwin introduces Disease X Act, seeking $2B to help BARDA with future viral preparation
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) introduced legislation last week that would allocate $2 billion to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).
The Disease X Act would provide $2 billion over the next four years — $500 million per year, beginning in 2022 — for BARDA to create a Disease X Medical Countermeasures Program. This program would be dedicated to making and improving responses for as of yet unknown viral threats through efforts like developing a medical countermeasures program, collaboration with other agencies, channeling administration of various federal investment strategies through a single source, improving equity, and funding specifically American companies.
“Infectious disease outbreaks now occur three times more often than they did 40 years ago,” Baldwin said. “The next pandemic, driven by an unknown Disease X, will come. We should not be waiting for the next viral threat to emerge. We must invest in the development of novel antivirals, vaccines, and diagnostics for unknown threats now so that we are better prepared to control the spread than we were at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Part of the lingering issue, Baldwin said, is that despite the dangers shown by COVID-19, no sustained funding, program, or strategy is in place to hasten the development of medical countermeasures for previously unidentified infectious diseases. This means that the threat of being hit unexpectedly by a new disease remains high, even if it’s impossible to say what virus could one day cause another pandemic.
“The profound effects of this pandemic should galvanize members of Congress to do everything in their power to prevent a global pandemic like COVID-19, or worse, from happening again and to be better prepared if it does,” Anita Cicero, Deputy Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said. “Senator Baldwin’s legislation to establish a dedicated ‘Disease X’ medical countermeasure program will enable the U.S. to rapidly develop drugs, diagnostics, and vaccines against unknown viral threats in order to save lives and safeguard the economy in future events.”
In addition to Baldwin’s proposal, the Biden Administration has also offered a $3.2 billion plan to spur antiviral research, specifically for developing new drugs and tests showing whether existing drugs will be useful against SARS-CoV-2.
The Disease X Act has garnered the support of numerous organizations, including Johns Hopkins, the International Society for Antiviral Research, FluGen Inc., the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and Attwill Medical Solutions.