The Race to Develop Coronavirus Vaccine – Could the Solution be Found in Israel?

Across the world, scientists are racing to develop a vaccine and a treatment to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.  With the sharp shift in countries priorities, and the effect on how we work, travel, learn and shop – the economic impact will undoubtedly have a global effect.

According to the World Health Organization, it received to date applications for review and approval of 40 diagnostics tests, 20 vaccines are in development and many clinical trials of therapeutics are underway. A mix of well-established pharmaceuticals companies and small startups have stepped forward with plans to develop vaccines and treatments.  Such research and development efforts require substantial funding that most countries are struggling to allocate for those important efforts.

With President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency over the coronavirus, the U.S. Administration and U.S. Congress have accelerated response and unlocked additional resources to assist federal and local state governments, hospitals, and small businesses in addressing the effects of the pandemic.  And, provide funding and resources for research and development of vaccines and treatments.  While more sweeping legislative and regulatory stimulus efforts are on their way, a few important resources have recently become available.

On March 6, President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriation Act. The bill that received U.S. Congress near unanimous support in both the House and Senate, provides $8.3 billion package to fund federal agencies response to coronavirus.  $6.7 billion to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) include more than $2 billion for the Biomedical Advance Research and Development Authority (BARDA) for the research and development of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics, prioritizing platform-based technologies with U.S.-based manufacturing capabilities.  Funding also include $836 million for the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases (NIAID), which conducts research on therapies, vaccines, diagnostics and other health technologies at the National Institute of Health (NIH).  $61 million were provided to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the development and review of vaccines, therapeutics, medical devices and countermeasures, to address potential supply chain interruptions, and support enforcement of counterfeit products. $300 million were provided in contingency funding for procurement of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.  The bill also provides $1.6 billion for international response.

The bill requires that vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics developed using taxpayer funds must be available for purchase by the Federal Government at a fair and reasonable price. It also allows the Secretary of HHS to ensure that vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics developed using taxpayer funds be affordable in the commercial market.

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And, with President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency on March 13th, FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency was allocating up to $50 billion dollars. Such funding can be used for among others, to provide supplies, testing kits and logistics assistance to the states.

Currently in the U.S., there are several companies that have already obtained funding for their research and development efforts from BARDA and NIAID. Others from Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a global organization based in Oslo, or been funding trials by themselves or through partnerships with other life science companies.

Israel’s biotechnology industry is undoubtedly one of its renowned innovation pillars. Israeli companies that are working on solutions to tackle COVID-19, may wish to look into the current U.S. funding opportunities and explore if such might be applicable for their solutions, whether it is a research and development of a vaccine, therapeutic, or other environmental cleaning, disinfecting, personal protective equipment and supplies for hospitals and public spaces.  Obtaining such funding will not be an easy task.  However, if those resources could contribute to the success of an Israeli company in the global race for containing the coronavirus – and from Israel, send healing to the work – would there be a better Tikkun Olam?

About the Author
Meital Stavinsky is a Miami and Washington D.C. attorney, member of Holland & Knight's Public Policy & Regulation Group and Co-Chair of the firm's Israel Practice. Meital focuses her practice on business, public policy and regulation, with a particular emphasis on Israeli emerging and advanced technologies companies in the areas of AgriTech, FoodTech, CleanTech and Advanced Transpiration Technologies. Meital assists Israeli companies seeking to enter the U.S. market and expand their operations in the U.S. She has successfully advocated on behalf of leading innovative Israeli AgriTech companies in raising their profile and advancing their goals before the U.S. Congress and key U.S. federal agencies, most recently in connection with the 2018 Farm Bill.
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