Bipartisan Congressional leaders urge additional resources for biomedical research to aid international COVID-19 response
A bipartisan group of members of Congress are urging colleagues to provide additional resources for biomedical research and development (R&D) to strengthen the international response to COVID-19. In a Dear Colleague letter led by Representatives Susan Wild (D-PA) and Ted Yoho (R-FL), these members called on House appropriators to provide resources for globally focused research efforts at the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to complement domestic efforts already funded by the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Defense to develop vaccines, treatments, and testing against COVID-19.
“As we consider what is needed for an exit strategy for America, we believe Congress must make decisions now to shorten the timeline of suffering, stamp out the virus, and ensure efforts to defeat the pandemic globally are equally effective,” reads the letter. “Just as innovation has powered the steady progress we are making in combating COVID-19 at home, ending the pandemic will require investing in new innovations to address COVID-19 in some of the poorest places in the world.”
As America’s foreign assistance agency, USAID has a long history of leadership in developing medical technologies designed specifically for low-resource settings that have weaker health systems and may lack basic infrastructure. Currently the US government does not participate in CEPI, a global vaccine development alliance that is supporting nine vaccine candidates for COVID-19.
The signers of the letter join a growing chorus of voices calling for the US government to fully fund a global COVID-19 response in future emergency funding packages. A major coronavirus supplemental package signed into law at the end of March dedicated less than one percent of funding to global efforts, and the supplemental bill most recently passed by the House of Representatives contains zero funding for international assistance.
“It’s clear that our only victory against COVID-19 is a global victory,” said Jamie Bay Nishi, Director of the Global Health Technologies Coalition. “And winning that war will require investments now in R&D to respond to the full spectrum of global needs. We thank Representatives Yoho and Wild and the other signers for their leadership on advancing this critical issue.”
LETTER TEXT AND SIGNERS
June 3, 2020
Chairwoman Nita Lowey
2365 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Ranking Member Kay Granger
1026 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Chairwoman Lowey and Ranking Member Granger,
We write to thank you for your leadership in the fight against COVID-19, and we urge you to provide additional resources for vital research and development (R&D) efforts in future emergency supplemental appropriations bills.
We, the undersigned Members of Congress, have bioscience research facilities in our districts that are partnering with federal agencies including BARDA, NIH, CDC, and DTRA on the development and deployment of new diagnostics, drugs, vaccines and other health products to help us win this fight. We view the advancement of these efforts as our foundation to defeat the COVID-19 virus, and as a necessary investment to protect the health and economic security of Americans.
We know the suffering the virus is causing here—home to the most cutting-edge hospitals, best trained health workers, and high-quality health products the world has ever seen. The effect of COVID-19 is projected to be even more devastating in communities around the world without these resources. As we consider what is needed for an exit strategy for America, we believe Congress also must make decisions now to shorten the timeline of suffering, stamp out the virus, and ensure efforts to defeat the pandemic globally are equally effective. These global efforts will be necessary to avoid the resurgence of the virus here at home.
Domestically, over the last two months, HHS and DoD have invested more than $10 billion in research and development partnerships with leading universities and bioscience research companies across the United States. These research institutions are moving at record speed to develop, test, and manufacture new health technologies and to rapidly scale up the availability of effective COVID-19 diagnostics. This progress, fueled by R&D investments provided by Congress, will be critical in stamping out COVID-19 in our own districts and states.
Just as innovation has powered the steady progress we are making in combating COVID-19 at home, ending the pandemic will require investing in new innovations to address COVID-19 in some of the poorest places in the world. In low resource settings, mitigation techniques like handwashing and social distancing aren’t always feasible, and isolating suspected cases to reduce the risk of death cannot be managed without the right products and personal protective equipment for frontline health workers. To address these challenges, our R&D investments at HHS and DoD must be matched by resourcing similar capabilities at USAID, a leader in global health innovation with a track record of delivering tools for emerging and enduring health threats, and by supporting global efforts to advance vaccine candidates through the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Initiatives (CEPI). To ensure success, these R&D investments must also be paired with funding to roll out and scale up new innovations through partners such as Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
As we work to respond to the pressing needs in our own districts, we must do so with a global perspective in mind. Shoring up the gains we are fighting for against this emerging infectious disease will mean defeating COVID-19 in every community around the globe. Innovation is our exit strategy for this pandemic: investing now in critical research and development programs to respond to the full range of global needs is a down payment on ensuring that in the coming months American health workers are safe, American children return to school, and the American economy begins to rebuild.
Ted S. Yoho
David N. Cicilline
Ami Bera, M.D.