The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has entered into its first ever venture capital partnership, a public-private agreement that’s ultimately meant to combat future pandemics and other types of health emergencies.
Through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority’s Ventures program, part of the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, BARDA is launching a partnership with the nonprofit organization Global Health Investment Corporation (GHIC) to accelerate the development and commercialization of technologies and medical products needed to respond to or prevent public health emergencies. These may include pandemics or other health security threats.
Through the partnership, BARDA intends to provide GHIC with a minimum of $50 million over five years, with the potential for up to $500 million over 10 years. GHIC will launch a global health security fund with matching capital from other investors.
This will allow direct linkage with the investment community, HHS said, and establish sustained efforts to identify and commercialize technologies that aid the U.S. in responding effectively to future health security threats.
With BARDA Ventures funding, GHIC plans to provide investment to companies developing breakthrough technologies. GHIC will collaborate with companies from around the world to source promising products it thinks will have the potential to strengthen health security and generate financial returns.
GHIC will structure investments with co-funding from additional private investors. As the technologies and companies generate investment returns, proceeds from BARDA Ventures funding will be returned to GHIC for reinvestment and the sustainment of BARDA Ventures.
WHAT’S THE IMPACT
To establish the partnership model, BARDA drew on responses to two public requests for information, as well as hundreds of discussions with venture capital experts in the government and private sector. In 2020, BARDA announced the need for a nonprofit partnership manager. GHIC was selected as that partner due to its track record of successful venture capital investments in healthcare and life science.
Through its Global Health Investment Fund, GHIC provides global health impact investing. This has accelerated the development of more than a dozen products that address global health and pandemic threats, including diagnostics, vaccines, pharmaceuticals and other medical products. These products have reached more than 100 million patients to date.
In establishing the program, BARDA tapped into public-private partnerships with companies of varying sizes and experience levels, from global pharmaceutical conglomerates to small business startups, in developing medical countermeasures. Collaborations have varied from cost-sharing contracts to flexible agreements under Other Transaction Authority.
This experience includes the founding of an accelerator partnership to combat antibiotic resistant bacteria, called CARB-X, in 2016 with the National Institutes of Health and the Wellcome Trust. CARB-X is managed by Boston University.
THE LARGER TREND
The BARDA Ventures partnership with GHIC will be supported through BARDA’s Division of Research, Innovation, and Ventures (DRIVe). BARDA launched DRIVe in 2018 to focus on potentially breakthrough technologies and capabilities needed to address systemic challenges across various health security threats, such as sensor- and artificial intelligence-based technologies to provide early and actionable health information, solutions for detecting and preventing sepsis, alternative vaccine delivery technologies, biologics and small molecule drug repurposing to combat threats.
BARDA’s DRIVe currently is partnering with 37 companies through federal contracts, and has a network of 13 accelerators in different regions of the country to source innovation. The accelerator network supports early-stage companies throughout their journey — from identifying a need to product launch — to help them overcome business and operational hurdles, and achieve success sooner.
Through its accelerator network, DRIVe is providing 154 health security product developers with this wrap-around support. With the BARDA Ventures partnership, BARDA looks to expand that impact even further.