An ambitious push to create a “Global Pandemic Center” in suburban Maryland got a $500,000 boost Tuesday from the Montgomery County Council, which said the project could help drive the county’s post-pandemic economic recovery and foster resilience against the next major health crisis.
Spearheaded by the regional nonprofit Connected DMV, the center would involve scientists and policymakers from across the globe but operate primarily from the D.C. region, with a likely headquarters in Montgomery.
It would “identify and launch strategic projects needed to advance pandemic avoidance and preparedness,” Connected DMV said in its pitch to the council, including a $2 billion flagship initiative, titled “AHEAD 100,” that would stockpile monoclonal antibodies — laboratory-made treatments — for 100 pathogens most likely to cause global pandemics.
“We were the first place [in Maryland] hit by this covid-19 initially, and we paid a heavy price,” Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D) said in an interview Tuesday, citing the county’s high death toll during the first part of the pandemic. “Anything we can do to avoid being that off-guard is going to be worthwhile.”
The county dollars, which are coming out of its general reserves, will go toward Connected DMV’s $2.5 million “strategy phase” to secure federal support, private- sector partnerships and other resources needed to launch “AHEAD 100.”
Other early contributors include the state of Maryland and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said Connected DMV chief executive Stu Solomon. The organization hopes to nail down a strategic plan by the end of August.
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