August 11, 2021 (Washington, D.C.) – A bold new public-private partnership to prevent future viral outbreaks from becoming pandemics has moved one step closer to realization, as the Greater Washington cross-sector nonprofit, Connected DMV, has announced the formal launch of a Global Pandemic Prevention and Biodefense Center (GPPBC). The Center will serve as a vehicle to foster greater collaboration among pandemic prevention stakeholders to deliver on strategic projects needed to advance pandemic preparedness and avoidance. The signature initiative of the Center accelerates the development of human monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) to treat the world’s top 100 pathogens across 25 pathogen families most likely to result in disease outbreaks.
“With more than 4 million deaths and $16 trillion eliminated from global economies caused by COVID-19, we were woefully unprepared for this pandemic and can ill afford to sit back and wait for the next inevitable disease,” said Stu Solomon, President & CEO, Connected DMV. “While other organizations are keenly focused on surveillance, diagnostics, and vaccines to prevent the next pandemic, monoclonal antibodies are the key missing puzzle piece to quickly halt new outbreaks. We aim to fill that void. The GPPBC brings together the world’s top scientists, life science companies, NGOs, and community organizations in partnership with federal labs, agencies, and policy decision makers to carry out this essential mission.”
The announcement was made at the August Steering Committee meeting of the GPPBC, which convened at the formal conclusion of the successful 8-month strategy phase assessing the feasibility of this ambitious $2.5 billion project. The Center’s Steering Committee is comprised of 40 highly respected senior executives, scientists, and policy makers, and will continue throughout the Launch Phase, serving as the official Advisory Committee to the Center’s Board, providing strategic and scientific guidance and direction.
The new stand-alone Center has been incorporated as a nonprofit, nonstock corporation in the State of Delaware and a permanent board will be seated later this year. The Center will be physically located in Montgomery County, Maryland and a site selection team is working to identify and finalize a site location in the county.
The lead initiative of the GPPBC is called AHEAD100 (Advanced Human Epidemic Antibody Defenses 100). This program, led by Vanderbilt University Vaccine Center director and globally renowned infectious disease specialist, Dr. James Crowe, will develop over a period of six years a stockpile of “warm-ready” mAbs to address known and emerging pathogens among numerous viral and bacterial families. These drugs, which will be developed, tested through Phase 1 clinical trials, and stockpiled, fill the critical time gap between outbreaks and vaccines, helping to immediately contain future viral outbreaks. This is especially critical for vulnerable and underserved communities that have been adversely affected by COVID. The Center will establish global stockpiles upon successful completion of the trials.
“Monoclonal antibodies, in alignment with vaccines and antivirals, provide the comprehensive set of medical countermeasures required to prevent and treat infectious disease,” said Phyllis Arthur, Vice President, Infectious Diseases & Diagnostics Policy, Biotechnology Innovation Organization. “By resourcing AHEAD100 alongside other current funding priorities, the US government and philanthropists can accelerate innovation and fill the critical void between diagnostics and vaccines.”
Other functions of the Center include driving innovation throughout the infectious disease ecosystem by facilitating better collaboration across public health and defense, the selecting of specific R&D platforms, advancing routes of dosage administration (Intramuscular (IM) vs infusion), enhancing manufacturing capability and capacity, lowering costs, and increasing efficiency. It will also define the rapid response protocol that governs how mAbs will be used during outbreaks.
“As the world strives to contain and end this COVID-19 pandemic, new and deadly pathogens, like the Marburg virus in South Africa, remind us that danger is always on our doorstep,” said Andy Weber, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Defense Programs and Deputy Coordinator for Ebola Response. “With the newly established Global Pandemic Prevention & Biodefense Center, we will be better able to harness great minds and technologies to ward off emerging threats. Confronting these challenges is not only an urgent health imperative but is also critical to our national security as bad actors use these pathogens to disrupt society.”
To date, the GPPBC has and continues to collaborate with a wide range of stakeholders across academia, government, industry and nonprofits – in the US and abroad. To validate its feasibility and support the transition to operations, the Center has received major funding from key partner organizations including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Montgomery County Maryland, the State of Maryland, S&R Foundation and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).
For more on the GPPBC, including the members of the Steering Committee, visit: https://www.connecteddmv.org/pandemic-center.
About Connected DMV
Connected DMV is an initiatives-based, charitable 501(c)(3) organization that works with regional organizations across Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia – the DMV – to help drive ongoing improvements to social, digital, and physical infrastructure. Connected DMV focuses on initiatives that span local jurisdictions and require public-private-academia-community collaboration to best achieve the dual objectives of enduring economic health and social equity.
The Global Pandemic Prevention and Biodefense Center is one of 13 region-wide key initiatives approved by Connected DMV’s COVID-19 Strategic Renewal Task Force, that brings the region together for inclusive economic growth and renewal across the entire DMV region in response to the pandemic.