Last week, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (“OSTP”) issued a request for information (“RFI”) to learn how the Government can more effectively “support scientific discovery, the development of technological advances, and increase the impact of a vibrant bioeconomy on the Nation’s vitality and our citizens’ lives.” 84 Fed. Reg. 47561 (Sep. 10, 2019). The Bioeconomy is the “infrastructure, innovation, products, technology, and data derived from biologically-related processes and science that drive economic growth, promote health, and increase public benefit.” Id. To establish guiding principles to promote and protect the U.S. Bioeconomy, OSTP is seeking input from interested parties, including “those with capital investments, performing innovative research, or developing enabling platforms and applications in the field of biological sciences, to include healthcare, medicine, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, manufacturing, energy production, and agriculture.” Id. Of particular interest to government contractors, OSTP is seeking information regarding opportunities for public-private partnerships, infrastructure investments, and best practices for data sharing and data protection. Id. at 47562. Responses are due on or before 11:59 pm on October 22, 2019. We have included the specific topics on which OSTP seeks input below.

Continue Reading White House Seeks Input from Biotech Stakeholders on Bioeconomy

Late last month, the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act of 2019 (PAHPAI) was signed into law.[1] The Act is a much anticipated reauthorization of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act, originally passed in 2006.[2] The legislation is a key development in strengthening the country’s ability to respond to bio-threats, disasters, and other national emergencies by defining federal program initiatives and funding states and private researchers. PAHPAI-authorized grants allow for the research and development of biodefense measures and the stockpiling of preparedness supplies.

Continue Reading PAHPAI Reauthorizes Key Biodefense Initiatives and Provides Opportunities for Industry Partners

Registration will open soon for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority’s (“BARDA”) 2018 Industry Day to be held on October 29 and 30 at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C. This event has been an integral part of BARDA’s outreach efforts to the life sciences community since 2007, and the newest version of this event promises to continue to provide meaningful insight into BARDA’s role in the nation’s public health preparedness efforts.

BARDA is expected to revisit annual topics like revisions to its broad agency announcement and updates to its goals and Government-wide strategic plans. In addition, this year BARDA will have a particular focus on innovation with the rollout of its Division of Research, Innovation, and Ventures (“DRIVe”) and lightning talks on noteworthy development efforts. Applications to participate in lightning talks are due soon, and potential participants should consider whether to take advantage of this unique opportunity.


Continue Reading Save the Date – BARDA Industry Day Is Coming

The U.S. Government has recently taken a number of steps to reinvigorate its support of medical countermeasure development. In particular, by pursuing new methods of contracting, updating regulatory frameworks, and establishing additional incentives for capital investment, the U.S. Government has confirmed that countermeasure development remains a critical component of public health preparedness.

Now, over the past two weeks, a two-part congressional hearing has suggested that recent efforts may soon be accompanied by key legislative changes, including much needed funding authorizations and incentives. As a result, the upcoming reauthorization of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (“PAHPA”), and its prior reauthorization, may present a critical opportunity to continue to improve public-private relationships in countermeasure development.


Continue Reading Recent Support of Countermeasure Development Poised to Continue in Reauthorization of PAHPA

On January 19, 2018, FDA announced the availability of a new draft guidance, titled “Material Threat Medical Countermeasure Priority Review Vouchers.” FDA’s publication of the draft guidance, which was issued by FDA’s Office of Counterterrorism and Emerging Threats (OCET) without a statutory mandate – reflects the commitment of FDA leadership to the development and approval of medical countermeasures (MCMs). In a question and answer format, FDA provides details about the Agency’s interpretation and implementation of the MCM priority review voucher (PRV) program, which was established in December 2016 by the 21st Century Cures Act (Section 565A of the Federal Food Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act)). That provision, intended to incentivize the development of MCMs, requires FDA to award a PRV to the sponsor of a successful marketing application that meets certain statutory criteria.

Continue Reading FDA Commitment to MCM Development Reflected in New Draft Guidance on Medical Countermeasure Priority Review Vouchers

On January 19, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (“DARPA”) issued a new solicitation in the form of a broad agency announcement for the Preventing Emerging Pathogenic Threats—or “PREEMPT”—program. The program will be managed by the DARPA Biological Technologies Office, which generally supports activities that integrate biology, engineering, computer science, physical sciences, and mathematics.

The goal of the program is to support research and development relating to new tools, models, and technologies that are focused on preventing the transition of viral threats from animals to humans. In contrast to recent biodefense efforts that have largely been initiated in response to significant human outbreaks, such as in connection with Ebola, influenza, and Zika, the program targets animal-based viruses that have yet to become an active threat to humans. In addition, consistent with DARPA’s mission, the program targets animal-based viruses that have a potential to impact deployed U.S. military forces, particularly with respect to remote geographic areas associated with prevalent endemic and emerging diseases.


Continue Reading DARPA Targets Animal-Based Viral Threats in Solicitation for PREEMPT Program

The Department of Defense (“DoD”) has issued two Class Deviations that provide defense agencies with greater flexibility when procuring in times of crisis. These Class Deviations allow for the use of simplified acquisition procedures and excuse certain procurement obligations when DoD is responding to a cyber-attack or providing relief in support of domestic or international

In its Report on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, the Senate Armed Services Committee (the “Committee”) included an “Item of Special Interest” directing the DoD to exercise its rights under the Bayh-Dole Act “to authorize third parties to use inventions that benefited from DOD funding whenever the price of a drug, vaccine, or other medical technology is higher in the United States” as compared to prices in foreign countries.  This directive does not have the force of law, and was included as an item of special interest after an amendment to incorporate the clause into the NDAA failed.  However, it represents an example of efforts to use the Bayh-Dole Act to influence drug product pricing. 
Continue Reading Senate Committee Directs DoD to Reduce Drug Prices

Last week, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (“DARPA”) issued a new broad agency announcement (“BAA”) seeking proposals to support the creation of an integrated “capability platform” for the delivery of medical countermeasures to prevent a pandemic threat within sixty days of targeting a known or newly emerging pathogen.  The BAA confirms DARPA’s commitment to addressing national security concerns raised by both naturally occurring public health emergencies and bioterrorism, as well other biological threats to members of the U.S. military.  Learning from recent experiences with Ebola, Zika, and Middle East respiratory syndrome, DARPA is targeting prophylactic solutions that are designed to prevent or halt the spread of an infectious outbreak, rather than solutions intended solely or primarily to treat infected individuals.

DARPA’s approach is consistent with recent guidance from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology in that it focuses on platform technologies and processes, which represent general approaches to medical countermeasure development that can be rapidly and reliably applied to varying threats.  The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority has adopted a similar focus in its own platform-based BAA, and additional opportunities for platform development will likely arise in the near future under the most recent strategy and implementation plan of the Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasures Enterprise.


Continue Reading DARPA Seeks to Establish New Platforms for Rapid Development of Medical Countermeasures

Concerns about the spread of Zika virus and potential complications associated with infection may soon lead to new research and development opportunities for government contractors and grant recipients.  Similar to developments after the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa, a need to better understand Zika’s characteristics and develop an effective countermeasure or vaccine has led both domestic and international public bodies and private industry to begin mobilizing resources in response to the virus.  As a result, both new and existing contractual vehicles will likely be used to fund a wide array of activities, extending from epidemiological studies to the development of new diagnostics and countermeasures.

Similar to yellow fever, dengue, West Nile, and Japanese encephalitis viruses, Zika is a flavivirus that is generally transmitted through mosquitoes.  Although Zika was first discovered in 1947, it has only recently been identified as a significant threat to public health based on a potential connection between Zika and microcephaly in newborns—a condition associated with incomplete brain development.  Recent events have also provided additional evidence of a potential link between Zika and Guillain-Barré syndrome, which is a nervous system disorder that could affect Zika’s carriers.

Previously, the virus was understood to have relatively limited consequences, only causing mild, flu-like symptoms in one of five of its hosts.  However, an outbreak of the virus in French Polynesia in 2013 and 2014 has now been associated with an increase in cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome.  In addition, an ongoing outbreak of the virus that began in Brazil last year has affected over one million individuals and been linked to both an increased incidence of Guillain-Barré syndrome and a dramatic rise in cases of microcephaly.  Zika RNA has been discovered in the amniotic fluid of women with affected fetuses in Brazil, and a recent report indicates that an affected newborn in Hawaii acquired Zika in the womb.


Continue Reading Zika Virus Complications Lead to Expected Government Partnership with Private Industry