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Blunt-Alexander “Shark Tank” COVID-19 Testing Plan Gets Underway at NIH

April 29, 2020

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, and U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, applauded an announcement from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that it has begun implementing a new public-private partnership to accelerate the development of COVID-19 testing technologies. Blunt and Alexander worked together to include this “shark-tank”-like effort in the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act that was signed into law last week.

“Dramatically increasing our coronavirus testing capacity will give people the confidence to get back to school, work, and daily life,” said Blunt. “I’m glad to see the National Institutes of Health moving quickly to get this new effort up and running so we can get the most promising new technologies into the hands of health care providers as soon as possible. This program will bring together public and private-sector partners to help tackle the biggest global health challenge we have seen in generations. America has long been a leader in developing life-saving innovations and we will do it again.”

“We now have at the National Institutes of Health a $1 billion competitive ‘shark tank’ led by Dr. Francis Collins, one of the nation’s leading scientists, that will lead the effort to create new technologies to produce the tens of millions of diagnostic tests we will need to contain this virus and restart the economy,” said Alexander. “In such a bold effort there will be failures, but all we need are a few successes to get our country back work and back to school.”  

In a Washington Post op-ed last week, Blunt and Alexander laid out their “shark tank” proposal to provide surge funding to NIH and other agencies “to advance other research, giving money to states to buy testing equipment, improve data reporting, conduct tests and operate testing centers, and implement contact tracing to identify those who’ve come in contact with sick people so they, too, can quarantine themselves.”  The Blunt-Alexander proposal was fully-funded in the latest round of coronavirus relief legislation.

Blunt and Alexander previously worked together to secure free antibody testing to determine whether someone has had the coronavirus and developed antibodies, in line with the full coverage for diagnostic tests that was included in the phase two coronavirus response legislation. 

More information on the NIH announcement is available here.

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