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BARDA Finds Ways to Help Boost Vaccine Production

Far less famous than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health is a program at the heart of the fight against diseases such as the flu and Ebola — the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA.

The agency, which operates within the office of the assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services, helps pay for the development of products that might otherwise be a tough sell with investors and shareholders.

For instance, BARDA is working with Mapp Biopharmaceutical of San Diego to try to increase production of the experimental ZMApp drug for Ebola. It’s also been a partner in recent innovations in the production of flu shots, helping the drug industry begin to move away from an antiquated and somewhat unreliable approach that relies on eggs.

BARDA “actually invests in promising pharmaceuticals, vaccines and therapeutics to treat everything from the flu to Ebola,” as opposed to other HHS agencies that pay for needed basic research, said Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, D-Calif., who co-authored legislation in 2006 to create the new agency.

BARDA’s creation was spurred in part by a severe disruption of the flu shot supply in 2004. That led lawmakers in both parties to look for ways to bolster production of treatments for biohazards.

Eshoo was among those who thought creating more financial incentives for companies was the path to a more stable supply of these products and greater innovation in the field.

“At the end of the day, we have the responsibility to guarantee a safe and full flow of vaccines available to those that need the vaccines the most, without a rationing system, without having 80- and 85-year-olds standing in line in the cold and dismayed, and really disheartened and disappointed by what this nation has to offer them,” she said at the time.

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