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House Subcommittee Explores Medical Product Development to Address Ebola Outbreak

November 21, 2014—The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health Nov. 19 held a hearing to examine the progress made in medical product development to address the Ebola epidemic. Subcommittee members were particularly interested in how the administration’s emergency supplemental funding request would facilitate and accelerate the production of diagnostics and therapeutics for Ebola, and how it would assist with the manufacturing and commercialization of promising interventions [see Washington Highlights, Nov. 7].

The subcommittee heard testimony from National Institutions of Health (NIH)’s National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci, M.D.; Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) Director Robin Robinson, Ph.D.; Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Assistant Commissioner for Counterterrorism Policy Luciana Borio, M.D.; and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Senior Advisor for Ebola Response Rear Admiral Steve Redd, M.D.

Drs. Facui and Robinson reported Phase II and III clinical trials will begin for two products in West Africa in January, and witnesses described several interventions in the discovery pipeline. Witnesses noted they are working on clinical trial designs with NIH, Emory University, and the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) to create effective, flexible trials that can monitor multiple therapeutics at one time.

Some Republicans on the subcommittee questioned if the supplemental included enough funding to address the outbreak, and Full Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) highlighted the need for continued and sustained investments in the nation’s public health infrastructure to ensure the nation is prepared for such epidemics.

Rep. Waxman said, “Congress must provide increased funding now and ensure the stability of that funding going forward… But we need also to make sure that this isn’t a one-time funding increase in wake of an emergency. We should avoid a cycle in which we let our guard down once the immediate public health crisis passes and don’t renew our efforts until the next emergency occurs and we find ourselves unprepared again.”

Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) asked witnesses about any duplication of efforts or redundancies among NIH, BARDA, FDA, and CDC. Each panelist explained the agencies’ missions are synergistic in nature but not duplicative. The agency officials also noted they communicate regularly and leverage each other’s strengths.

Members also discussed the roles of the federal government and the private sector in the response, the issue of travel bans quarantine protocols as means to prevent Ebola from spreading, and the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE).


Tannaz Rasouli
Sr. Director, Public Policy & Strategic Outreach
Telephone: 202-828-0525


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