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Washington Times: Pandemic prevention center to stockpile antibodies in Rockville

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By Sean Salai- The Washington Times

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

A regional development nonprofit agency has opened in Rockville a facility that will stockpile monoclonal antibodies and study 100 pathogens, including COVID-19, SARS-2, Ebola and MERS.

Connected DMV has opened its Global Pandemic Prevention and Biodefense Center at the U.S. Pharmacopeia building on Twinbrook Parkway, near several National Institutes of Health buildings and the Department of Health and Human Services headquarters.

“When an outbreak occurs, the idea is to stop it by having solutions prepared in advance,” said Connected DMV CEO Stu Solomon. “To have antibodies prepared will allow us to provide preventative care, treatment and a cure to the infected.”

The center’s AHEAD100 initiative brings together dozens of experts from the scientific, academic and nonprofit communities to accelerate development, Mr. Solomon said.

“The federal government, academia and pharmaceuticals industry can’t solve this on their own,” he said. “But when you bring them together, it’s amazing what can be done from a nonpartisan, public health perspective.”

The center raised $2.5 million last year from its primary partners: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Maryland Department of Commerce, Montgomery County and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

It hopes to raise $2.5 billion this year — about $25 million per pathogen for development — from private charities, the federal government and foreign governments.

Connected DMV said it chose to establish the center in Montgomery County because of its proximity to 70 federal labs, 800 life sciences companies, four government health agencies, political power and 175 foreign embassies and missions in the D.C. area.

The new Rockville office will allow Connected DMV staff to submit research proposals to receive the government and philanthropic grants they need to expand into research and lab space.

Dr. James Crowe, a pediatrician and infectious disease specialist who studied at the NIH, will serve as the center’s chief scientist.

“The last three years have clearly shown that our pandemic offense must include a full arsenal of medical countermeasures, stockpiled and ready to deploy anywhere in the world when an outbreak occurs,” said Dr. Crowe, a steering committee interim board member.

“Future outbreaks are inevitable, but another pandemic doesn’t have to be — what we do next will determine if we truly have the courage to prepare,” he said.

Other board members include Dr. Richard Tubb, former White House physician to President George W. Bush, and Dr. Sachiko Kuno from the cosponsoring Sachiko Kuno Foundation.

Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, an infectious diseases specialist, represents the Boston University School of Medicine on the steering committee. The university’s Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases Policy and Research, which she founded, said in a statement that it “will provide expertise and strategic guidance for the new venture.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified one of the center’s funding sources.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@washingtontimes.com.