The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched the nation's first Foundry for American Biotechnology today, with the aim of producing technological solutions that help the U.S. protect against and respond to health security threats, enhance daily medical care, and add to the nation's bioeconomy.
The novel coronavirus is a reminder of the need to constantly invest in biotechnology innovation in partnerships with the private sector, said HHS Secretary Alex Azar.
"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," said Azar. "The creation of the first Foundry for American Biotechnology in New Hampshire is a milestone achievement in the innovative work that ASPR has done to support America's development and manufacturing of medical countermeasures. Every year, America faces natural disasters and other public health emergencies, and someday, Americans will be able to recover faster from these emergencies and stay healthier because of products that come out of this Foundry."
The Foundry for American Biotechnology will be housed in Manchester, New Hampshire, and managed in conjunction with Manchester-based DEKA Research and Development Corp. as part of a public-private partnership.
The HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, along with a consortium of government agencies and private sector partners, will determine, fund, and attract additional private sector funding to commercialize the foundry's innovation projects.
In addition to ASPR and DEKA, the first consortium partners will include representatives from industrial pharmaceutical and industrial automation sectors.
WHAT'S THE IMPACT
The Foundry will engage regional experts and offer an idea lab, dry and wet labs, manufacturing space, and a learning zone with access to DEKA's industrial design capabilities and the company's modeling and simulation technology. The Foundry also will create and manage a commercialization program that engages private-sector partners to accelerate the adoption of the technologies.
With this approach, technology more quickly becomes part of daily medical care and is available for disaster response. The commercialization program also may reduce the need for federal and state governments to maintain costly stockpiles of medications, vaccines, diagnostics, equipment and supplies.
The flexible wet lab space can be sized for specific project needs with project teams bringing their own personnel, products, materials, and supplies. The space even supports development of manufacturing processes using commercial Good Manufacturing Practices necessary to bring the products to market.
The Foundry's first project will focus on maturing and validating small, portable, automated devices that could be transported easily to disaster locations to make necessary medicines on-site. ASPR is partnering with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to transition this technology to the Foundry from DARPA's Battlefield Medicine and Make-It programs.
THE LARGER TREND
The effort is expected to boost ASPR's Priority Medicines on Demand program. In a disaster response, such as a pandemic or bioterrorism incident, millions of people may need medicines, such as antibiotics or antivirals, or vaccines. Through the Priority Medicines on Demand program, ASPR envisions producing essential products quickly in the location where they would be needed rather than being manufactured elsewhere in the country or the world, and shipped to the affected area.
The technology for medicines on demand have commercial uses as well. Technologies developed at the foundry could transition to the private sector or federal agencies for final development and technology validation, with sustainable products for sale on the commercial market.
ON THE RECORD
"The Foundry for American Biotechnology represents a game-changer in driving technologies critical to saving lives in disaster response," said ASPR Dr. Robert Kadlec. "By providing essential services that move biotechnology from bench to bedside, the foundry not only solves problems the nation faces in health security, but also boosts the U.S. bioeconomy."
"In a global health emergency like a pandemic, the countries in which active pharmaceutical ingredients, medications, and vaccines are produced could require manufacturing companies to provide the medications or vaccines to their own country before manufacturing and delivering products to other countries," Joe Hamel, ASPR's Strategic Innovation and Emerging Technology Manager explained. "Medicines on demand technology eliminates this complication, which would greatly decrease our emergency response time and help secure the U.S. supply chain."