In the latest World Health Organization daily situation report, as of March 11, 2020, the WHO reported 118,326 COVID-19 cases confirmed and 4,292 deaths worldwide, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 938 cases and 29 deaths in the United States.  The same day, WHO characterized COVID-19 as the first global pandemic sparked by a coronavirus.  Additionally, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), issued a Declaration under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act) to provide liability immunity for entities against any claim of loss caused by, arising out of, relating to, or resulting from the manufacture, distribution, administration, or use of covered medical countermeasures (MCMs).  Prioritized pathways are now available to expedite review of new, responsive technology proposals for MCMs from diagnostics to therapeutics.

Continue Reading Expanding the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Response through Diagnostic Development

As of February 10, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 40,554 cases of the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) have been confirmed globally, with twelve cases confirmed in the United States.  The WHO has been issuing situation reports on a daily basis since January 21, and each report in February alone has identified more than 2,000 to 3,000 new cases each day.

Due to the lack of approved therapeutics, vaccines, and diagnostics for this threat, developing new products and testing products already approved for other uses is a high priority for the U.S. interagency response effort—the Medical Countermeasure (MCM) Task Force.  The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), under the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is leading this Task Force in partnership with U.S. Department of Defense, Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Institutes of Health.

BARDA is currently looking at the effectiveness of existing countermeasures for similar viruses, as well as potential new responsive technologies, including vaccines, diagnostics, therapeutics, and medical supplies.  BARDA is serving as the sole point of entry for product and technology submissions to ensure there is an expedited process for receipt and review of proposed solutions for 2019-nCoV.  In this capacity, BARDA has released two opportunities to submit potential solutions for the 2019-nCoV response discussed below: (1) the EZ-BAA for 2019-nCoV diagnostics and (2) market research packages for any and all potential products and supplies.  Covington encourages those with technology that could be potentially useful to respond.

Continue Reading U.S. Government Seeks Industry Solutions in Novel Coronavirus Response

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