June 18, 2012
Hello, and thank you all for joining us today.
I’m pleased to be joined by Nicki, Robin, Brett Giroir, Andrin Oswald and Fuad El-Hibri to announce an important step that our department is taking to ensure the health, safety and security of the American people.
Today we’re announcing the creation of three public-private Centers that will significantly expand our country’s ability to respond to bioterrorism threats, pandemic flu, and other epidemics.
The range of threats that we face as a nation is constantly evolving. Today, we don’t know where our next public health crisis will come from. It could be a dirty bomb set off in a subway car. It could be a naturally-occurring superbug that’s resistant to most treatments. Or it can be the new strain of flu that will cause the next pandemic.
Our most direct, and often, most effective defense against these kinds of threats are medical countermeasures – the vaccines, antivirals, antibiotics, therapeutic drugs, diagnostics, and medical equipment we’d need to protect and save victims and patients.
But the 2009 National Health Security Strategy found that our ability to respond to a bioterrorism threat was greatly lacking. And the H1N1 pandemic highlighted the need to be able to rapidly produce the next generation of influenza vaccines.
That’s why in December of 2009, I called for an unprecedented review of our entire medical countermeasures enterprise.
The report set out a vision of a nation with, quote “the nimble, flexible capacity to produce medical countermeasures rapidly in the face of any attack or threat, known or unknown, including a novel, previously unrecognized, naturally occurring emerging infectious disease.”
The Centers we’re announcing today fulfill a recommendation from that review and are critical to meeting that vision.
Emergent Manufacturing Operations Baltimore, Novartis, and the Texas A&M University System, the three organizations chosen to lead these centers, all have experience in developing or manufacturing medical countermeasures.
But they also have unique skill sets that will help fill gaps in our nation’s health preparedness.
And with each contract able to be renewed for up to 25 years, our partnership represents a long-term commitment to national health and security.
These centers will serve several different preparedness and response functions.
On a day-to-day basis, the centers will give inexperienced developers of biodefense medical countermeasures the physical space and technical assistance they need to further develop their products.
Each center will also house the state-of-the- art technology necessary to quickly and efficiently ramp up countermeasure production in an emergency. So in the event of a sudden biological attack, each center could rapidly develop and produce the specific vaccines or therapeutic products our country needed to respond.
And when another flu pandemic arrives, we’ll have the domestic capability to make more vaccine faster. Together the centers with other HHS domestic efforts will ensure that we are not dependent on vaccine made in other countries.
Finally, the centers will also partner with leading academic institutions to create the innovative training programs we need to develop the next generation of American biotech workforce
Every year, new threats to our nation’s health and security emerge and old ones evolve to become resistant to our medicines.
That’s why we will continue to look for ways to build a stronger countermeasure enterprise. These centers are a big step forward toward our preparedness and response goals and toward building a safer America.