Last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) unveiled a new type of public-private partnership that enables investments using venture capital practices.
Through the BARDA Ventures program, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, is launching a partnership with the nonprofit organization Global Health Investment Corporation (GHIC) to accelerate development and commercialization of technologies and medical products needed to respond to or prevent public health emergencies, such as pandemics, and other health security threats.
Through this partnership, BARDA intends to provide GHIC with a minimum of $50 million over five years with potential for up to $500 million over 10 years. GHIC will launch a global health security fund with matching capital from other investors. This partnership will allow direct linkage with the investment community and establish sustained and long- term efforts to identify, nurture, and commercialize technologies that aid the U.S. in responding effectively to future health security threats.
“While we tackle the pandemic’s impact, we’re exploring how the U.S. can better prepare for future public health emergencies, whether it’s the next pandemic or a bioterrorism incident,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “The pandemic has demonstrated that the U.S. needs transformative technology that is not only available but also widely accessible. Today we are announcing an innovative, cost-effective approach that puts us on a better path to take on the next public health crisis and improve U.S. health care.”
With BARDA Ventures funding, GHIC plans to provide investment to companies developing breakthrough technologies. GHIC will collaborate with companies from around the world to source promising products with the potential to strengthen health security and generate financial returns. GHIC will structure investments with co-funding from additional private investors. As the technologies and companies generate investment returns, proceeds from BARDA Ventures funding will be returned to GHIC for reinvestment and sustainment of BARDA Ventures.
“Pathogens and health security threats constantly evolve and change. To effectively combat them, we need new and innovative ways to tap into the most novel and impactful ideas in the entrepreneurial community,” said BARDA Director Gary Disbrow, Ph.D. “BARDA Ventures will rise to the challenge by engaging that community and leveraging both public and private funds to change the way we prepare for health security threats of the future.”
To establish the BARDA Ventures partnership model, BARDA drew on responses to two public requests for information and hundreds of discussions with venture capital experts in the government and private sector. In 2020, BARDA announced the need for a nonprofit partnership manager. GHIC was selected as that partner with a demonstrated track record of successful venture capital investments in healthcare and life science.
Through its Global Health Investment Fund, GHIC provides global health impact investing. GHIC has accelerated the development and delivery of more than a dozen innovative products that address global health and pandemic threats, including diagnostics, vaccines, pharmaceuticals, and other medical products. These products have reached more than 100 million patients to support health while generating returns on invested capital.
In establishing the program, BARDA leveraged its deep experience with wide-ranging public-private partnerships with companies of all sizes and experience levels, from global pharmaceutical conglomerates to small business startups, in developing lifesaving medical countermeasures. Collaborations have varied from cost-sharing contracts to flexible agreements under Other Transaction Authority.
This experience includes the founding of an accelerator partnership to combat antibiotic resistant bacteria, called CARB-X , in 2016 with the National Institutes of Health and the Wellcome Trust. CARB-X is managed by Boston University and is now the world’s largest public-private partnership dedicated to accelerating new countermeasures to combat antimicrobial resistant infections.
The BARDA Ventures partnership with GHIC will be supported through BARDA’s Division of Research, Innovation, and Ventures (DRIVe). BARDA launched DRIVe in 2018 to focus on potentially breakthrough technologies and capabilities needed to address systemic challenges across all health security threats, such as sensor and artificial intelligence (AI) based technologies to provide early and actionable health information, solutions for detecting and preventing sepsis, alternative vaccine delivery technologies, biologics and small molecule drug repurposing to combat threats.
BARDA’s DRIVe currently is partnering with 37 companies through federal contracts and has a network of 13 accelerators in different regions of the country to better source innovation. The accelerator network supports early-stage companies throughout their journey – from identifying a need to product launch – to help them overcome their biggest business and operational hurdles, and achieve success sooner. Through its accelerator network, DRIVe is providing 154 health security product developers with this wrap-around support. With the BARDA Ventures partnership, BARDA looks to expand that impact even further.
“BARDA Ventures is part of the comprehensive system we are creating to better prepare for any novel threat that emerges,” said BARDA DRIVe Director Sandeep Patel, Ph.D. “DRIVe has demonstrated a track record of successful engagements with the entrepreneur and research communities, and this program engages them further to make an immediate impact on global health security.”