Zika funding from Congress is just around the corner
Vaccine and therapeutics developers nationwide have been waiting with bated breath for Congress to finally agree on a Zika bill to fund the development of Zika countermeasures and support the public health efforts needed to stem the spread of the epidemic. Yesterday, Capitol Hill moved one step closer to approving this bill and giving agencies like NIH and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) the money they need to continue pushing research and development efforts forward.
To date, relatively little support has been offered to Zika R&D. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell announced in August that she was reprogramming $81 million dedicated to other biomedical research to the development of Zika vaccines. Of that money, $34 million in funding was directed to the National Institutes of Health and $47 million to BARDA. By the middle of September, all the funds allocated by the Secretary to BARDA had already been spent, along with whatever reprogrammed internal funds BARDA was able to dedicate to Zika.
With yesterday’s reveal of the stopgap spending package by the Senate, we have moved one step closer to having Congressional action on a Zika relief bill. The Zika language and funding levels included in the continuing resolution introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell yesterday was the result of an agreement between Senate Democrats and Republicans, meaning that those same provisions will be included in the final continuing resolution (CR). That CR bill allocates a total of $1.1 billion in emergency spending for Zika and includes:
- $394 million for mosquito control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
- $397 million for the National Institutes of Health and Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to develop vaccines and diagnostics;
- $75 million to reimburse health care provided in states and territories with active Zika transmission for those without private health insurance.
While an agreement has been reached on the Zika funding, several other issues need to be resolved before the CR is passed. The deadline for action on the CR is September 30. US universities and biotechs can start to breathe a little easier, knowing that funding for Zika countermeasures is around the corner.