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On Virtual Missouri Town Hall, Blunt Talks “Shark Tank” COVID-19 Test Development Program, Securing Medical Supply Chain

May 08, 2020

WASHINGTON – Yesterday, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) joined the entire Missouri congressional delegation for a statewide virtual town hall hosted by FOX 2 anchor and political analyst John Brown. Blunt discussed the federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, including his “Shark Tank”-like program, which is now underway at NIH, to accelerate the development of new COVID-19 testing technologies. Blunt also talked about legislation he helped pass to better safeguard the U.S. medical supply chain.

Following are Excerpts From Blunt’s Interview:

Blunt on NIH “Shark Tank”:

“This is something Senator Alexander, who is the chairman of the authorizing committee, I’m the chairman of the appropriating committee, we’ve worked together for two months now to come up with a unique way to fast forward the decision making process. In five days after the bill was signed the National Institute of Health had a ‘Shark Tank’ up and running, they had 400 responses in the very first day.

“Now the job is for those ‘Shark Tank’ experts to narrow those responses down. What we want to do is say, ‘let’s get the four things that have at least a 50% chance of being successful and let’s go ahead and start toward production with all four of them.’ So that by the time they have gone through the final test, let’s say it’s a vaccine, one of those or two of those or however many got through the final test, would already be ready to go out and be available rather than be 30 days away or 60 days away from Missourians and people all over the country being able to get that vaccine. … So, vaccine, therapeutics, testing, all are part of the ‘Shark Tank’ concept. They’re talking about a warp speed view toward a vaccine, that’s exactly what we’re talking about as part of the ‘Shark Tank’ process.”

Blunt on Securing Medical Supply Chain:

“Senator Durbin and I actually proposed an idea. We work together on some things, there’s a lot of things we don’t agree on, but one was to have a crash study by the [National Academies of Sciences] of our supply chain for PPE, the protective equipment, a supply chain for medical devices, a supply chain for pharmaceuticals.

“I think we’re going to be looking at lots of supply chains as we get out of this and the economy generally, but the most critical one to look at is the one that impacts healthcare. That’s already started, it’s already funded, we hope to have some answers soon on what we need to do to have a supply chain that is more secure for America’s health and also to be sure that we have a supply chain where we don’t just have a sole source for anything that we need to keep our country safe and healthy. ”

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