The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee has advanced bipartisan legislation to strengthen the nation’s public health and medical preparedness and response systems. The bill incorporates a number of provisions from previously introduced bills, including an authorization measure to launch a new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H).
The Prepare for and Respond to Existing Viruses, Emerging New Threats, and Pandemics Act, or PREVENT Pandemics Act (S. 3799), sponsored by HELP Committee Chair Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), aims to improve coordination among public health preparedness agencies, enhance the nation’s capability to detect and monitor emerging infectious diseases, strengthen supply chain and government stockpiles of medical products, and accelerate biomedical research to develop countermeasures for pandemic threats, among other things.
The bill includes a provision to establish ARPA-H within the National Institutes of Health, while requiring that its headquarters not be located “inside of, or in close proximity to, the National Capital region,” including on any part of NIH campuses. For FY 2022, Congress has appropriated $1 billion to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish ARPA–H.
Notably, the pandemic bill also incorporates the Tracking Pathogens Act (S. 3534), which builds on funding provided for COVID-19 genomic sequencing and surveillance and seeks to strengthen pathogen genomics to prepare for future outbreaks. AIBS previously joined a group of scientific and public health stakeholder organizations in expressing support for S. 3534.
Furthermore, the HELP committee adopted an amendment from Senator Roger Marshall (R-KS) that prohibits federally funded research involving “pathogens of pandemic potential” from being conducted in a foreign institution located in a “country of concern,” as determined by the Director of National Intelligence.
The PREVENT Pandemics Act also includes several research security provisions, such as a measure that would prohibit intramural researchers at NIH from participating in foreign talent programs and require NIH-funded researchers conducting extramural research to disclose their participation in such programs and provide the agency with copies of all related documentation.
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