Broad Agency Announcement

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

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

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (“DTRA”) issued a broad agency announcement (“BAA”) at the end of last week seeking “near-term” solutions that can be developed in time to assist with the current (Zaire) Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa.  Expanding on the BAA under which the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) is seeking solutions to Ebola, which we covered in a recent post, the BAA issued by the DTRA covers a significantly wider array of potential technologies, products, and services, including protective equipment and rapid disinfection processes.  In addition, unlike the BAA issued by HHS, the BAA issued by the DTRA is primarily seeking solutions with almost immediate results—with a number of suggested timeframes calling for a solution’s development in less than six months.

Contracts can be awarded on a fixed price, cost reimbursement, or cost plus fixed fee basis.  The BAA contemplates the potential award of a number of contract types, including indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (“IDIQ”) contracts, task orders issued under existing IDIQ contracts, and Other Transaction Agreements (“OTAs”).  Other than OTAs, contracts awarded under the BAA will be subject to FAR and DFARS requirements.Continue Reading Defense Threat Reduction Agency Seeks “Near-Term” Solutions to Ebola Outbreak

As the U.S. government works to address the threat posed by the Ebola virus, one tool available to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in this effort is a broad agency announcement (BAA) originally issued in 2009 as a means of accelerating the development of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics to prevent and treat the disease. On October 16, for instance, the agency highlighted that BAA in announcing the award of an $8.6 million contract for the development of an experimental Ebola vaccine. That announcement came on the heels of another HHS award in September 2014 — this one worth $42.3 million — for the development of a separate drug to treat Ebola infections, ZMapp. Additionally, HHS recently issued a task order under its Centers for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing (CIADM) program inviting three qualified laboratories to submit proposals for the acceleration of production of experimental ZMapp doses. HHS officials have signaled a readiness to look to the BAA in order to identify other qualified technologies for additional awards to combat Ebola.

In a recent press release announcing that HHS is “seeking additional proposals” for the advanced development of Ebola treatments, Robin Robinson, the Director of HHS’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), vowed that the agency would “push[] hard to advance the development of multiple products as quickly as possible for clinical evaluation and future use in preventing or treating this deadly disease.” For companies with an interest in assisting the government in its Ebola prevention and treatment efforts, a strong working understanding of the above-referenced BAA and its requirements is vital.Continue Reading Government Looking to Existing Procurement Vehicles to Stem Ebola Threat