HHS on Monday launched a new program to spur development and commercialization of technologies that would help the U.S. respond to health security threats and disasters.
The Foundry for American Biotechnology, a public-private partnership, will be jointly managed by the department's Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response—or ASPR—and the New Hampshire technology firm Deka Research and Development Corp.
Other consortium partners will include companies from the industrial pharmaceutical and automation sectors, according to HHS.
The Foundry for American Biotechnology's first projects will focus on developing portable, automated devices that can quickly produce medications on-demand. The goal is to create small-scale devices that can be delivered to disaster locations, so that the U.S. can produce pharmaceuticals where they're needed during a disaster.
Technologies developed at the foundry's lab and manufacturing spaces will transition to federal agencies or the private sector for final development. The foundry will also manage a program to commercialize new inventions with the private sector.
That commercialization program could help to reduce the need for government agencies to maintain "costly stockpiles" of medications, equipment and supplies, HHS officials said.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar described the Foundry for American Biotechnology as a "milestone achievement" to support development of medical countermeasures—products meant for use during a public health emergency—and a step toward helping Americans recover faster in the event of an emergency.
"As the outbreak of the novel coronavirus reminds us, protecting the health and security of the American people requires constantly investing in biotechnology innovation and partnering with the private sector," Azar said in a statement. The World Health Organization declared the Wuhan coronavirus a public health emergency late last month, and as of last week 12 U.S. patients have been diagnosed with it.
Other areas of interest for the program include developing technologies to support dialysis care in disaster settings, real-time healthcare system capacity reporting, and telehealth services that help medical professionals better assist health systems during disaster recovery and response.
HHS' Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response is accepting proposals from those interested in helping to develop solutions through Sept. 30.