ASTMH continues to advocate before Congress and the Biden administration. Letters that ASTMH led or joined include:
• A letter to Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee leaders urging for the swift reauthorization of PEPFAR.
• A letter in response to the Request for Information on the NIH Plan to Enhance Public Access to the Results of NIH-Supported Research.
• A letter to chief Senate and House appropriators requesting funding and report language for tropical infectious disease and global health issues in FY 2024 for the CDC Center for Global Health Division of Parasitic Disease and Malaria Program, and the Fogarty International Center.
• CDC Director Walensky to Step Down
• White House Poised to Nominate New NIH Director
• NIAID Selects New Vaccine Research Center Director
• USAID Launches Global Health Emergency Response System
• President Biden Shares Vision for Malaria-Free World on World Malaria Day
• House and Senate Introduce Resolutions Honoring World Malaria Day
• PMI Releases 17th Annual Report to Congress on Malaria Progress
• HHS Partners with PAHO and WHO/Europe to Boost Transatlantic Global Health Response
• Congressional Battle Continues Over Debt Ceiling Negotiations, June 1 Default Deadline Looms
• Bipartisan PASTEUR Act to Fight Antimicrobial Resistance Introduced
• Senate HELP Committee Holds Hearing Ahead of PAHPA Reauthorization
• House E&C Republicans Send Letter to GAO on Gain-of-Function Research
• House E&C Republicans Launch Investigation into Leadership Vacancies at NIH
CDC Director Walensky to Step Down
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky announced
that she is stepping down and will leave her post at the end of June. “The end of the COVID-19 public health emergency marks a tremendous transition for our country, for public health, and in my tenure as CDC Director,” Walensky shared in a statement. “I took on this role, at your request, with the goal of leaving behind the dark days of the pandemic and moving CDC – and public health – forward into a much better and more trusted place.” President Joe Biden said Dr. Walensky “leaves CDC a stronger institution, better positioned to confront health threats and protect Americans.”
White House Poised to Nominate New NIH Director
According to news reports
, the Biden Administration is expected to announce Dr. Monica Bertagnolli to lead NIH. If confirmed by the Senate, Dr. Bertagnolli would replace Dr. Lawrence Tabak, who has been serving as Acting Director since the end of 2021. Dr. Bertagnolli, a world-renowned surgical oncologist and researcher, currently serves as the director of the National Cancer Institute. The White House has not yet released a formal statement on Dr. Bertagnolli’s nomination.
NIAID Selects New Vaccine Research Center Director
The NIAID recently appointed Dr. Theodore Pierson as the new director of its Dale and Betty Bumpers Vaccine Research Center. Prior to his appointment, Pierson served as a senior investigator and chief of NIAID’s Laboratory of Viral Diseases. Dr. Pierson will lead a comprehensive research program focused on developing candidate vaccines and biologics against HIV/AIDS, coronaviruses, influenza and emerging infectious diseases with pandemic potential. “[Dr. Pierson] has played a key role in developing antiviral vaccines and furthering our understanding of important viruses transmitted by mosquitoes and ticks—arboviruses—and how neutralizing antibodies work against flaviviruses, such as Zika virus,” said Acting NIAID Director Dr. Hugh Auchincloss. “He is exceptionally well-suited to lead the VRC and its continued pursuit of innovative basic, translational and clinical discovery.”
USAID Launches Global Health Emergency Response System
During a major policy speech at the Center for Global Development, USAID Administrator Samantha Power announced
the launch of a new global health emergency response system. According to Ms. Power, the new system enhances USAID’s rapid response capabilities for outbreak- and non-outbreak health emergencies. She said the new tool was based on lessons from recent outbreak responses and will further allow USAID “to better respond to multiple critical health emergencies at once.”
President Biden Shares Vision for Malaria-Free World on World Malaria Day
On World Malaria Day (April 25), President Biden issued
a statement affirming his administration’s commitment to “making the vision of a malaria-free future a reality.” In the statement, President Biden acknowledged the importance of public-private partnerships in developing lifesaving antimalarial approaches and tools, including the new malaria vaccine. He also said that the “[United States] will continue to invest in research and expand our partnerships with regional and multilateral institutions to ensure science is driving our response.” President Biden also announced plans to host the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria’s Replenishment Conference later this year.
House and Senate Introduce Resolutions Honoring World Malaria Day
In honor of 2023 World Malaria Day (April 25), the House and Senate introduced two separate resolutions (S.Res.170
). The Senate resolution, introduced by the Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Chris Coons (D-DE), affirmed the United States’ commitment to malaria eradication worldwide and highlighted the importance of global health R&D partnerships. The House Resolution, introduced by Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), French Hill (R-AZ) and Susan Wild (D-PA), included a requirement that the USAID Administrator submit a report on cumulative progress toward a 90 percent malaria reduction by 2030.
PMI Releases 17th Annual Report to Congress on Malaria Progress
On World Malaria Day, the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) released
annual report to Congress. The report emphasized how USAID continues to advance the development of new non-artemisinin-based therapies to combat drug resistance by investing in the Medicines for Malaria Venture and funded the Innovative Vector Control Consortium to develop new insecticides and insecticide-based technologies. The report also discussed how PMI is working with partners to develop an expedited process to develop quality vaccine applications and led the development of global guidance for the new RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine. It also acknowledged the invasion of the Anopheles stephensi
mosquito in Africa and that one PMI-supported study in Ethiopia “would need to increase by an estimated $72 million dollars per year just to mitigate this invasive species.”
HHS Partners with PAHO and WHO/Europe to Boost Transatlantic Global Health Response
The Department for Health and Human Services, PAHO, and the WHO Regional Office for Europe (WHO/Europe) recently
signed a new strategic agreement to improve transatlantic cooperation “to strengthen global health systems and attain health equity in a post-pandemic context.” Among areas for collaboration, the agreement identifies several critical priorities, including enhancing vaccine manufacturing through public-private partnerships, supporting the health workforce, strengthening disease surveillance, and combatting mis- and disinformation related to healthcare.
Congressional Battle Continues Over Debt Ceiling Negotiations, June 1 Default Deadline Looms
Amid stalled negotiations over the debt ceiling, House Republicans narrowly passed
a funding measure titled the "Limit, Save, Grow Act"
that would increase the debt limit in exchange for steep cuts. The proposed cuts would reduce non-defense funding to FY22 levels and have far-reaching consequences for various U.S. global health programs at CDC, NIH, Department of State and USAID. Unsurprisingly, Democrats and President Biden have strongly opposed the GOP debt-bill, calling for a “clean” debt ceiling increase without conditions. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned lawmakers that the United States could default on its debt ceiling as early as June 1 if Congress fails to act, only giving Congress and the White House a few short weeks to strike a final deal.
Bipartisan PASTEUR Act to Fight Antimicrobial Resistance Introduced
A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House and Senate recently
introduced the Pioneering Antimicrobial Subscriptions to End Upsurging Resistance (PASTEUR) Act
. Originally introduced in the 116th
Congress, the bill would help spur drug development by establishing a “subscription model” to address the growing crisis of antimicrobial resistance. “The bipartisan PASTEUR Act is the strongest bill ever written to strengthen antibiotic development and use,” bill sponsor Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) said. “It will fix our market failures, expand the pipeline for next-generation antibiotics and save lives.” ASTMH has supported the PASTEUR Act since it was first introduced.
Senate HELP Committee Holds Hearing Ahead of PAHPA Reauthorization
The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee recently
held a hearing titled “Preparing for the Next Public Health Emergency: Reauthorizing the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA).”
Congress must reauthorize PAHPA by September 30, 2023; the bill is widely considered a must-pass bill due to its instrumental role in the reauthorizations of the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). BARDA and the authorities it receives through PAHPA have been instrumental in developing medical countermeasures for the Ebola, Zika and COVID-19 emergencies. Witnesses for the hearing included Dawn O'Connell, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, ASPR; Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director, CDC; Dr. Robert Califf, Commissioner, FDA; Dr. Reshma Ramachandran, Assistant Professor, Yale School of Medicine; Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen; and Dr. Martin Makary, Professor, John Hopkins University. Throughout the hearing, members of Congress and witnesses collectively expressed support for reauthorization of the bill. Witnesses also emphasized the need for congressional support and funding to sustain progress of R&D of medical products.
House E&C Republicans Send Letter to GAO on Gain-of-Function Research
The House Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA), and Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY) sent
a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) asking for the congressional watchdog office to conduct a scientific audit to “assess the benefits and risks of conducting predictive field research programs for viruses.” The request follows a E&C Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing—"Biosafety and Risky Research: Examining if Science is Outpacing Policy and Safety”
—which explored how the federal government “funds risky research” and whether “current biosafety measures are still sufficient to mitigate risks.” Hearing witnesses included Dr. Rocco Casagrande, Executive Chairman, Gryphon Scientific; Dr. Gregory Koblentz, Associate Professor & Director, Biodefense Graduate Programs, George Mason University; Dr. Andy Pekosz, Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health; and Dr. Robert Hawley, Former of Chief of Safety and Radiation Protection Division, U.S. Army Medical Research Institute, Fort Detrick.
House E&C Republicans Launch Investigation into Leadership Vacancies at NIH
The House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA) sent
a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra inquiring about two director-level vacancies at NIH: one at NIAID and the other at the Fogarty International Center. The letter stresses the secretary’s Constitutional role in making appointments to vacant positions. The vacancies follow the retirements of Dr. Anthony Fauci (NIAID) and Dr. Roger Glass (Fogarty International Center).