Jul 10 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators Thom Tillis and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) recently introduced bipartisan legislation to accelerate the development of necessary medical countermeasures (MCMs) to combat future pandemics. The COVID-19 pandemic showed the devastating consequences of deadly infectious disease epidemics and the repercussions of not having the proper infrastructure to expedite the development of MCMs for infectious disease threats.

“Our nation must be equipped and prepared to effectively respond to the next infectious disease outbreak,” said Senator Tillis. “We must learn from the lessons—including failures—in our preparedness for and response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and our bipartisan legislation will provide the necessary resources and facilitate public-private partnerships to accelerate research and develop of critical countermeasures.”

“UNC-Chapel Hill commends Senator Tillis for his leadership in working to introduce the bipartisan Disease X legislation, which would authorize critically important funding to strengthen the development of effective medical countermeasures (MCMs) within the United States. This dedicated funding will bolster this important scientific work and help accelerate countermeasure breakthroughs, helping us better prepare for potential future epidemics.” – Dr. Penny Gordon-Larsen, Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill & Distinguished Professor at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

“This Act would be a major leap forward in our collective efforts to stay ahead of the ever-evolving threat landscape,” said Anita Cicero, Deputy Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “The Disease X Act of 2023 empowers BARDA to invest in modern technologies that will lead to new vaccines and drugs against pandemic–capable viruses. We commend Senators Baldwin and Tillis for their vision and urge all lawmakers to unite in support of this important bill.”

Even though deadly infectious disease epidemics can dramatically affect the American public, military personnel, and our economic and national security, there is currently no sustained funding, program, or strategy dedicated to accelerating the development of medical countermeasures for previously identified infectious disease threats with the greatest pandemic potential, referred to as “Disease X.” 

The Disease X Act of 2023 protects Americans by establishing a Disease X Medical Countermeasures Program at the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by: 

  • Providing funding of $40 million per year for five years specifically for Disease X MCMs;
  • Clarifying the HHS may award contracts, grants, and cooperative agreements, or enter into other transactions, to promote the development of Disease X MCMs;
  • Directing BARDA to accelerate and support the advanced research, development, and procurement of countermeasures and products to address Disease X threats; and
  • Requiring products developed using funding from the Disease X Program be substantially manufactured in the United States.

The Disease X Act of 2023 has been supported by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Biotechnology Innovation Organization, Infectious Diseases Society of America, Dr. Caroline Schuerger, Research Fellow, Georgetown Center for Security and Emerging Technology, Dr. Steph Batalis, Research Fellow, Georgetown Center for Security and Emerging Technology, Ginkgo Bioworks, Institute for Progress (IFP), Big Cities Health Coalition, FluGen Inc., US Biologic, Inc., Vir Biotechnology, The Gerontological Society of America, Helix, New Orleans BioInnovation Center, American Society for Microbiology, The Medical Countermeasures Coalition, 1Day Sooner, and Dr. Gregory D. Koblentz, Director, Biodefense Graduate Program, Schar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University.

A one-pager on the legislation can be found here