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AHLA News & Analysis

Public Health

HHS Intensifies Efforts to Treat and Detect Coronavirus

​The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) announced February 4 it will expand an existing collaboration with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. to develop multiple monoclonal antibodies that, individually or in combination, could be used to treat the emerging coronavirus.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar declared a nationwide public health emergency January 31 for the coronavirus, which was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China and began a rapid international spread.

"Emerging infectious diseases can present serious threats to our nation's health security," said Rick Bright, Ph.D., deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response and director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) at ASPR. "Working as public-private partners like we have with Regeneron since 2014, we can move rapidly to respond to new global health threats."

BARDA also announced the opening of an Easy Broad Agency Announcement for development of 2019-nCoV diagnostics and is now accepting submissions for potential funding.

The agency will review concise abstract submissions for development funding of 2019-nCoV molecular diagnostics. The diagnostics must utilize platforms already cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with a viable plan to meet requirements for the FDA to consider Emergency Use Authorization within 12 weeks of an award, according to the announcement.

On February 6, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that it has begun shipping CDC-developed laboratory test kit to detect the virus to select qualified U.S. and international laboratories.

Distribution of these tests "will help improve the global capacity to detect and respond to the 2019 novel coronavirus," CDC said.

Meanwhile, California's Department of Industrial Relations issued interim guidance on protecting health care workers from exposure. 

Employers and employees should review their own health and safety procedures as well as the new recommendations, the agency said. 

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