Shark Tank Initiative: Combatting COVID-19, Part 7: University & Manufacturing Concerns, and Conclusion
This is the seventh and final article in series about the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee’s Shark Tank Initiative Hearing.
Regarding Schools and Universities Re-opening
With schools, colleges and universities across the country indefinitely closed, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) wanted to know what he and his colleagues should tell educational institutions interested in reopening in August. Dr Collins replied they are striving to have point of care testing available by that time. At that point, each school, college and university could test every member of its student body, staff and faculty. In this way, educational institutions could identify and isolate infected persons, a critical measure for preventing second and third waves, potentially worse than the first wave itself.
University Research Losses
Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) expressed concern that “universities back home have said research projects have been shut down.” He noted that specially raised, genetically modified rats are being euthanized due to researchers’ access to the lab. The expense of extending a program is $20,000 for all of the grad students who need to complete their research. He wonders what the NIH has planned for these scientists. Dr Collins replied that when combining the costs in terms of lost productivity and the need to keep people employed, it amounts to around $10 billion in NIH funded research that will disappear due to the virus requiring distancing. He stated that worries over trainees and the affect on their professional careers keeps him up at night. Senator Cassidy replied, quite simply, “You haven’t given a plan.”
Senator Warren, has attempted for years to exert some form of government control over manufacturing, Before finishing her questioning, the senator from Massachusetts made another plug for legislation. This time discussing an act she announced the week before the hearing. If approved, her proposed COVID-19 Emergency Manufacturing Act, which builds on the 2018 Affordable Drug Manufacturing Act also proposed by her, would establish an Office of Manufacturing. The Office would operate similarly to BARDA. It would publicly manufacture or enter into contracts to manufacture “everything the country needs to fight COVID-19, swabs, reagents, masks, face shields, intubation drugs.” She concluded her time with an emotional plea, stating that Congress should include her legislation in the next coronavirus relief package “so we can save lives that are still being put at risk.”
Senator Lamar Alexander’s closing remarks
According to Johns Hopkins and Trump, at the time of the hearing, the U.S. had conducted over 7 million diagnostic tests, more than any other country, and more per capita than South Korea. A total he considers very impressive. The country still needs millions more tests due to the uniqueness of the situation, not because the U.S. doesn’t already conduct a considerable number of tests. Senator Alexander noted that we must understand that RAD-X and Shark Tank will have failures, an idea Americans must both accept and support.