NIAID, CDC, NIH, and HHS were recognized by the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer with an Interagency Partnership Award for their collaboration on the successful sharing of scarce Zika samples with the global research community. The collaboration made possible the rapid and robust sharing of Zika materials such as Zika isolates and serum samples, which was essential to expanding knowledge, supporting vaccine and therapeutics development, and developing urgently needed diagnostic tests.
As reports of Zika cases in the Americas increased through 2015 and 2016, the World Health Organization declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. To address the urgent need to move samples as quickly as possible among U.S. government agencies and other partners for research, the NIAID Technology Transfer and Intellectual Property Office (TTIPO) worked with CDC, NIH, and the HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response to structure a one-page Emergency Use Simple Letter Agreement (EUSLA). This agreement allowed biological specimens and materials to be rapidly and effectively disseminated during the public health emergency. Many companies, in addition to the academic research community, had expressed interest in obtaining specimens to support and advance Zika research but feared that the requirements for traditional Material Transfer Agreements would not allow for the rapid dissemination of materials.
In addition to the new EUSLA, the NIAID Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases used its existing infrastructure to disseminate research materials rapidly and efficiently using the NIAID-funded Biodefense and Emerging Infections (BEI) Research Resources Repository, a central repository that supplies organisms and reagents to the broad community of microbiology and infectious diseases researchers. By centralizing functions through BEI Resources, the process of sharing materials during a public health emergency is faster, and quality control of the reagents is assured. TTIPO, NIAID’s acquisitions team, and DMID program staff worked to restructure the existing BEI contract so this could be accommodated.
In furtherance of this goal and under the direction of NIAID, BEI Resources has received deposits of Zika materials from 17 organizations, including NIAID, CDC, and three other federal agencies, and has fulfilled 1,865 requests for Zika materials under EUSLA. A total of 430 agreements were put in place to allow the shipment of Zika materials to 124 universities, hospitals, and research institutes; 43 biotech and pharma companies; 16 federal agencies and state public health departments; and 4 foreign governments. Materials were distributed to 35 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and 23 countries. In the past few months, the urgent sample needs for Zika response activities have been met, and the World Health Organization has declared that Zika is no longer a public health emergency of international concern.
Congratulations to all those involved for this recognition!
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