HHS launches $50M venture capital partnership to develop tech for pandemic response – FierceHealthcare

The federal government wants to tap into venture capital approaches to help bring to market breakthrough technologies in preparation for the next pandemic.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Tuesday a public-private partnership with nonprofit organization Global Health Investment Corporation to develop and commercialize technologies and medical products that aid the U.S. in responding effectively to future health security threats.

BARDA Ventures, the venture arm of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), is spearheading the initiative and plans to provide GHIC with a minimum of $50 million over five years with potential for up to $500 million over 10 years.

BARDA is part of the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.

GHIC, a nonprofit established to provide long-term funding for global health research and development, will launch a global health security fund with matching capital from other investors. The public-private partnership will allow direct linkage with the investment community and establish sustained and long-term efforts to identify, nurture and commercialize technologies that aid the U.S. in responding effectively to future health security threats, HHS officials said in a press release.

“While we tackle the pandemic’s impact, we’re exploring how the U.S. can better prepare for future public health emergencies, whether it’s the next pandemic or a bioterrorism incident,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra in a statement. “The pandemic has demonstrated that the U.S. needs transformative technology that is not only available but also widely accessible. Today we are announcing an innovative, cost-effective approach that puts us on a better path to take on the next public health crisis and improve U.S. health care.”

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With BARDA Ventures funding, GHIC plans to collaborate with companies from around the world to source promising products with the potential to strengthen health security and generate financial returns, the organizations said.

GHIC will structure investments with co-funding from additional private investors. As the technologies and companies generate investment returns, proceeds from BARDA Ventures funding will be returned to GHIC for reinvestment and sustainment of BARDA Ventures.

“Pathogens and health security threats constantly evolve and change. To effectively combat them, we need new and innovative ways to tap into the most novel and impactful ideas in the entrepreneurial community,” said BARDA Director Gary Disbrow, Ph.D., in a statement. “BARDA Ventures will rise to the challenge by engaging that community and leveraging both public and private funds to change the way we prepare for health security threats of the future.”

To establish the partnership model, the agency drew on responses to two public requests for information and hundreds of discussions with venture capital experts in the government and private sector, officials said. In 2020, BARDA announced the need for a nonprofit partnership manager. The agency selected GHIC given its demonstrated track record of successful venture capital investments in healthcare and life science, HHS officials said.

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Through its Global Health Investment Fund, GHIC has accelerated the development and delivery of more than a dozen innovative products that address global health and pandemic threats, including diagnostics, vaccines, pharmaceuticals and other medical products. These products have reached more than 100 million patients to support health while generating returns on invested capital, the organization said.

BARDA has a long history of striking public-private partnerships with organizations from global pharmaceutical conglomerates to small business startups to help develop medical countermeasures.

BARDA’s partnership with GHIC will be supported through BARDA’s DRIVe initiative (Division of Research, Innovation, and Ventures). Launched in 2018, DRIVe aims to accelerate innovations for addressing systemic health concerns with a similar approach that’s been taken for addressing human-made health threats. Through that initiative, the agency focuses on leveraging sensors and artificial-intelligence-based technologies to provide early and actionable health information, solutions for detecting and preventing sepsis, alternative vaccine delivery technologies, biologics and small-molecule drug repurposing to combat threats.

BARDA’s DRIVe currently is partnering with 37 companies through federal contracts and has a network of 13 accelerators in different regions of the country to better source innovation.