Appropriation to support new “Pandemic Prevention Center”

Today, the Council introduced a $500,000 special appropriation that I authored to fund ConnectedDMV’s work toward creating a new global Pandemic Prevention Center, supported by the federal government and located here in Montgomery County. I describe the County’s role in making this exciting proposal a reality in greater detail below.


TO: Councilmembers & County Executive Elrich
FROM: Councilmember Hans Riemer
DATE: January 6, 2021
RE: Appropriation to support new “Pandemic Prevention Center”

I propose the Council introduce a special appropriation for $500,000 to the organization ConnectedDMV to help develop and advocate for a new global Pandemic Prevention Center here in Montgomery County.

As one of the world’s biggest BioHealth clusters and home to the NIH and FDA, we are a natural choice to host this critical new agency. We have the opportunity — and we should act now to close the deal.

ConnectedDMV is a regional non-profit organization that has convened a broad group of stakeholders from the public and private sectors across the capital region. They have identified a global Pandemic Prevention Center as a key need to keep the turmoil, loss of life, and economic devastation we have suffered at the hands of COVID from ever happening again.

Among other initiatives, the Prevention Center would initially develop and maintain a stockpile of monoclonal antibodies that the US Government could rapidly deploy against future pandemics.

To hear more about ConnectedDMV’s vision, you could listen to this podcast interview of ConnectedDMV CEO, Stu Solomon conducted by BioHealth Innovation CEO Rich Bendis. Mr. Bendis is playing a leadership role in the early stages of conceptualizing this center.

The Washington Post covered the launch of ConnectedDMV.

This multi-billion dollar federal investment would be great for America, and hosting it here in Montgomery County would further secure our status as home to the world’s leading pandemic response institutes and top medical scientists – the place where breakthroughs happen.

ConnectedDMV has outlined a budget of about $2.5 million for the initial planning and staffing phases, and a budget of $2 billion to create the stockpile of 100 antibodies, much of which will be federally funded. The concept of the antibody stockpile is to identify the top 100 known pathogens that could cause the next pandemic, and then take antibodies through clinical trials and put the effective antibodies into storage for rapid deployment in the future.

While this process is only just beginning and there is a long road ahead, a modest investment by Montgomery County would cement Montgomery County as the consensus location for a federal Pandemic Center, allow ConnectedDMV to accelerate its work, and help ensure it can be a high priority for the incoming Biden administration.

This will also build on one of the key initiatives I have been working on as Chair of the PHED committee: to build programs that seek to leverage our Federal research institutes.

Working with MCEDC, I convened a PHED meeting in September of 2018 that brought together leaders in bio and tech sectors to talk about leveraging NIH, NIST, FDA, DOE and DOD to create new companies and high wage job growth.

Among the steps that followed from that meeting, the Council backed my proposal to re-establish our supportive funding relationship with BioHealth Innovation (BHI). BHI has been a powerful resource for our growing life sciences sector and in fact Mr. Bendis has been instrumental in conceiving of the Pandemic Center.

Now in the crisis of COVID-19, we are seeing a significant acceleration of investment in biohealth in our region flowing from our Federal institutes. As Bisnow reported on October 6:

The Department of Health and Human Services has distributed billions of dollars through its Operation Warp Speed program, with a goal of producing and delivering 300 million doses of ef ective vaccines starting in January. Four of the 10 companies that have received the most funding are based in Montgomery County, BioHealth Innovation CEO Richard Bendis said.

Gaithersburg-based Novavax received $1.6B to manufacture a COVID-19 vaccine, HHS announced July 7. Rockville-based Emergent BioSolutions received $628M in funding, HHS announced June 1. U.K.-based GlaxoSmithKline, which has a Global Vaccine Center in Rockville, was part of a partnership that received $2B in vaccine funding. AstraZenaca, a U.K.-based company with a major Gaithersburg facility, received $1.2B in vaccine funding in May.

As much growth as we are already seeing, this may be just the beginning. We should all hope that in the wake of this global disaster, pandemic preparedness will become an urgent ongoing priority. According to a WHO expert, in fact, this pandemic is “not necessarily the big one.” The County is poised to make significant contributions going forward and we should invest in our strengths.

With many players at the table in the conversation, from the state of Maryland and our MCEDC and Executive branch team, to other jurisdictions in the region, the County Council should take a leadership role to move this forward as quickly as possible by putting forward the appropriation needed to make our participation possible and, again, to confirm the location for the Center in Montgomery County.

Under the framework I am proposing, the Council will adopt the appropriation and the County Executive (and team) will serve on the strategy committee.

To that end, in addition to providing the financial support, the Executive branch should immediately begin working with ConnectedDMV to identify various options for a future location for the Center, as well as explore partnerships with Montgomery College, the Universities at Shady Grove, and key employers.

I look forward to your support and collaboration to develop this important initiative.

Additional information about the proposal is attached.

CC: Rich Bendis, BioHealth Innovation, Inc.