Emergency Response Act aims to enhance biothreat preparedness

U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN)
U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN) | Courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives

U.S. Reps. Susan Brooks (R-IN) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA) introduced a bill this week that would reform the nation's medical countermeasure acquisition process and incentivize research on emerging deadly diseases.

The Strengtening Public Health Emergency Response Act of 2015 would require that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) coordinate their efforts relating to the Strategic National Stockpile to avoid readiness gaps between the two institutions.

The bill also would require accountability on how preparedness funding is being utilized. Brooks' office reports that up to 10 percent of Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) funds are being used to cover administrative overhead, equating to approximately $60 million across the country that could have been used directly by states and hospitals. Under this bill, administrative costs can only make up 3 percent of these grants' total usage.

“Any gaps in our biodefense preparedness regimen are simply unacceptable,” Eshoo said. “In the wake of the most recent Ebola outbreak in western Africa, we know firsthand how unchecked threats can result in severe and deadly consequences. This bipartisan bill takes steps to ensure that this scenario will not be a reality for Americans. It reforms and modernizes our nation’s leading biodefense agency, and it keeps our country at the cutting edge of medical countermeasure acquisition and development.”

The bill also would streamline the BARDA contracting process, reducing delays in the procurement of medical countermeasures by allowing BARDA to manage its own contracts, rather than the current system, which involves the Office of Acquisitions Management, Contracts and Grants. The bill also would modify the Priority Review Voucher program to include all threats identified by the Department of Homeland Security, including the Ebola virus and anthrax.

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U.S. Representative Susan Brooks (IN-5)

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