Medicine & Health

Spurring innovation in emergency response

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Modern Healthcare sat down with Gary Disbrow, director of HHS’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, to learn more about the BARDA Ventures program, which uses venture capital strategies to speed up the development and commercialization of technologies and medical products to fight or deter public health emergencies.

In June, BARDA Ventures announced it would partner with the Global Health Investment Corp. and provide the not-for-profit a minimum of $50 million over five years, and the potential of up to $500 million over 10 years. In turn, GHIC will launch a global health security fund with matching capital from other investors.

On how the BARDA Ventures program fits into the organization’s broader strategy for investing in emergency preparedness:

Gary Disbrow: There are many things we’ve done to spur innovation since BARDA’s inception that include the private sector, whether they’re large or small pharmaceutical companies or even startups that are typically reluctant to partner with the federal government. The BARDA model where we partner with companies in the private sector truly has been one of our hallmarks and we view it as a true partnership. We’re not just providing funding. 

On how the BARDA Ventures program differs from the department’s other public-private partnerships:

Gary Disbrow: The difference is that the funds are provided to the entity, which is the Global Health Investment Corp. Those dollars can actually be used by GHIC to take an equity position within the company, which is unlike any of the contracts that we award as the U.S. government.

On the nature of the partnership between BARDA and GHIC:

Gary Disbrow: We work with GHIC to develop priorities and strategy for the coming year. But they are able to use venture capital practices and make investments in companies that meet our strategic requirements, as well as our priorities, and take equity positions.

On why BARDA selected GHIC as its venture capital partner:

Gary Disbrow: They are experts in developing products, and they’ve done this globally for the past several years. It is more than just the potential return on investment. They’re actually supporting the development of this product.

On how BARDA will know if the ventures program is succeeding:

Gary Disbrow: It’s the progress of those investments, whether it’s continuing with development or perhaps they are advanced enough that they could come in under advanced research and development through government funding. Another measure of success is that they get additional VC funding. 

For every dollar that the U.S. government puts in, GHIC has to come up with matching dollars from other VC entities to support the development and investments in those products.

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