DC/Global Policy Update

Posted 14 May 2024

LATEST FROM DC
‚ÄčASTMH continues to advocate before Congress and the Biden administration.

ON THE HILL 
House Members Urge Appropriations Committee to Advance Global Health Security and Prioritize AMR Funding in FY2025  
EcoHealth Alliance President Testifies Before House at Heated Hearing 
Dr. Fauci to Testify Before Congress on COVID Origins and Pandemic-Era Policies
Ranking Member Cassidy Makes Push for NIH Reform 
Senate Holds Confirmation Hearing for Ambassador for Global Health Security and Diplomacy
USAID Administrator Testifies on FY2025 Budget Priorities 
Senators Urge PAHPA Reauthorization 

IN THE ADMINISTRATION 
White House Unveils New Policy on Gain-of-Function Research 
New White House Global Health Security Strategy Announced 
USAID Moves to Establish Malaria Vaccine Development Program Scientific Advisory Committee

LATEST FROM DC
ASTMH continues to advocate before Congress and the Biden administration. Letters that ASTMH led or joined include:
  • Submitted written testimony to the House and Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittees on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, and Related Agencies; State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs; and Defense urging for robust funding and support for various programs aimed at strengthening global health and infectious disease research and development, including malaria and NTDs for Fiscal Year 2025.
  • Letters to House and Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee leadership urging support for malaria research in the FY2025 Defense Appropriations bill and continued inclusion of malaria in the Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program.
  • Letters to House and Senate Committee on Appropriations LHHS Subcommittee leadership urging support for robust funding in FY2025 for various programs at CDC and NIH, including the CDC Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria, NIH Fogarty International Center, and NIAID.
  • Letters to Senate and House Appropriations LHHS Subcommittee leadership urging for increased funding for the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health in FY2025.
  • Letter to letter to Senate Appropriations LHHS Subcommittee leadership urging for the highest level of funding possible for CDC’s Advanced Molecular Detection program for FY2025.
  • Letter to House and Senate LHHS, SFOPs, and Subcommittee on Defense leadership urging to sustain and protect global health research and development funding in the FY2025 budget.
 
ON THE HILL
House Members Urge Appropriations Committee to Advance Global Health Security and Prioritize AMR Funding in FY2025  
In a bipartisan letter, a group of over 40 House members urged House Appropriations LHHS Subcommittee leaders to make robust investments in global health programs at USAID, CDC, and Department of Defense for FY2025. Led by Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA), the letter emphasized the importance of impactful federal investment in national pandemic preparedness and response capabilities. In another bipartisan letter, House members asked LHHS Subcommittee leadership to prioritize funding to address the antimicrobial resistance crisis through programs at CDC, NIH, and the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response in FY2025. “If we do not act now, by 2050 antibiotic resistant infections will be the leading cause of death globally—surpassing cancer—and could cost the world $100 trillion,” members warned in the letter.
 
EcoHealth Alliance President Testifies Before House at Heated Hearing
As part of the House Republicans ongoing probe into the origins of the pandemic, EcoHealth Alliance President Dr. Peter Daszak testified at a three-hour hearing before the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic. During the hearing, lawmakers on both sides peppered Dr. Daszak with questions on the organization’s ties to the Wuhan Institute of Virology and use of taxpayer dollars to conduct gain-of-function research. Lawmakers repeatedly criticized Dr. Daszak for discrepancies in the information provided to the subcommittee and efforts to mislead regulators. Prior to the hearing, the subcommittee’s majority members released a new report recommending that the administration immediately ban, or debar, EcoHealth from receiving NIH funding. The report also enumerated other recommended actions, such as potential term limits for NIAID leadership; incorporating national security or intelligence community review into the federal grant making process; and considering whether NIAID should be divided into two institutes: one focusing on infectious disease and one focusing on allergies, among other suggestions.

Dr. Fauci to Testify Before Congress on COVID Origins and Pandemic-Era Policies
On June 3, former Director of NIAID Dr. Anthony Fauci will testify before the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic. The hearing will mark the first time Dr. Fauci will publicly appear before Congress since his retirement at the end of 2022 and builds upon two closed-door, 14-hour transcribed interviews earlier this year. Select Subcommittee Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) has publicly said that some of Dr. Fauci’s interview responses amounted to “serious systemic failures” that merit further investigation. The subcommittee also recently subpoenaed Dr. David Morens, who previously served as a top advisor to Dr. Fauci, to appear before Congress at the end of the month. The subpoena alleges that Dr. Morens obstructed the select subcommittee’s investigation into the pandemic origins.

Ranking Member Cassidy Makes Push for NIH Reform
Ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee Bill Cassidy (R-LA) recently published a white paper outlining potential policy actions to reform NIH. Prior to the white paper, Sen. Cassidy requested feedback from stakeholders last year on policies Congress should consider to modernize NIH. The report includes a number of recommendations including increasing transparency by reengaging the Science Management Review Board, which is tasked with reviewing the agency’s structure and operations, and streamlining the peer-review process, and instituting new oversight tools over the grant management process. “While we now have more opportunities to advance the health and well-being of the American people through biomedical innovation, the risks of failure—whether by failing to harness research opportunities, the erosion of the domestic biomedical research workforce, the proliferation of low-quality research, or poor oversight that threatens public trust in science—are greater than ever before,” Sen. Cassidy said in the report.

Senate Holds Confirmation Hearing for Ambassador for Global Health Security and Diplomacy
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently held a nomination hearing for a number of pending State Department nominees, including  Dr. John Nkengasong to serve as ambassador-at-large for global health security and diplomacy. In his testimony, Dr. Nkengasong notably highlighted how disease outbreaks from zoonotic spillover are increasing by roughly 5% every year and the growing threat of AMR. During the hearing, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) emphasized the success of PEPFAR and asked Ambassador Nkengasong how he intends to leverage the achievements of PEPFAR into other areas of global health. Ambassador Nkengasong explained how the program’s investments into detection and response capabilities for infectious disease will offer dividends for global health. Lawmakers on the committee also expressed interest in various topics, including U.S. relations with WHO and preventing duplication of efforts between the State Department and USAID in respect to global health security.

USAID Administrator Testifies on FY2025 Budget Priorities
USAID Administrator Samantha Power recently testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and House Appropriations SFOPS Subcommittee on the agency’s FY2025 budget and priorities. During the April 10 HFAC hearing, titled “USAID’s Foreign Policy and International Development Priorities in the Era of Great Power Competition,” Chairman Micheal McCaul (R-TX) notably commended the reauthorization of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, while other lawmakers on the committee emphasized the importance of continued investment in global health R&D. In the SFOPS hearing April 11, Administrator Power emphasized the need for increased funding to support USAID’s disease surveillance and lab capacity activities, warning how the $200 million cut to global health security initiatives at the agency in the FY2024 appropriations bill impedes these efforts.

Senators Urge PAHPA Reauthorization
Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) recently sent a letter to Senate leaders urging them to reauthorize the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act, which lapsed in 2023. “We must reauthorize PAHPA to ensure that the United States is prepared to meet the challenges we face today and the potential public health emergencies of tomorrow,” the Senators wrote. “The reauthorization bills advanced in both House and Senate committees would strengthen our national approach to ever-changing and emerging threats.” The letter stresses how PAHPA has strengthened the ability of agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services to anticipate and respond to public health threats, as well as equipped states and jurisdictions with “foundation resources” for early warning, prevention, and preparedness.

IN THE ADMINISTRATION
White House Unveils New Policy on Gain-of-Function Research
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy recently released its long awaited guidance regarding gain-of-function research. The new policy, which combines the current dual use research of concern and enhanced potential pandemic pathogen federal oversight frameworks, expands the scope of biological agent and toxin research subject to federal oversight. The updated guidance follows protracted public debate and mounting scrutiny from Republicans to expand oversight of federally funded research into infectious agents with pandemic potential. The updated policy will go into effect in a year. “This policy ushers in a new era of oversight that will support the nation’s ability to be prepared to counter biological threats, enhance pandemic preparedness, and achieve global health security,” said NIH Director Dr. Monica Bertagnolli in a statement.
 
New White House Global Health Security Strategy Announced
Last month, the administration launched the U.S. Global Health Security Strategy, setting forth a five-year plan to deliver on the goals of the 2022 National Biodefense Strategy and Implementation Plan and the bipartisan Global Health Security and International Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response Act of 2022. The strategy centers around three goals, including strengthening global health security capacities through bilateral partnerships; catalyzing political commitments, financing and leadership to achieve health security; and increasing linkages between health security and complementary programs to maximize impact. As part of the plan, the United States will significantly expand its global health security partners from 19 to 50 countries to strengthen global health security capacities and combat infectious disease threats around the globe. “[The strategy] will help protect people—across our nation and around the world—from security threats, particularly those posed by infectious diseases. And it will make the United States stronger, safer, and healthier than ever before at this critical moment,” President Joe Biden said in a statement.
 
USAID Moves to Establish Malaria Vaccine Development Program Scientific Advisory Committee 
USAID recently announced that it intends to reestablish the Malaria Vaccine Development Program Scientific Advisory Committee for a period of two years. The committee is tasked with reviewing and providing strategic advice to USAID MVDP at least once a year.
 
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