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May 06
Thank You for Your Public Service

Acting Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Nikki Bratcher-Bowman Reflects on the Past Year during Public Service Recognition Week


For over a year, public servants from ASPR and across the government have worked tirelessly to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, even as we continue to prepare for, respond to, and recover from other disasters and emergencies. Each and every day, I am honored to work with staff from ASPR and other public servants from across the government as we continue to develop medical countermeasures to address health security threats, build healthcare coalitions, deploy healthcare professionals from the National Disaster Medical System to support communities, strengthen supply chains, and much more.

During Public Service Recognition Week, May 2-8, 2021, I would like to take a moment to say “thank you” to our team of dedicated public servants for the important work they do to protect the health and safety of all Americans.

The work that ASPR staff does – both on the frontlines of health and behind the scenes – has been especially impressive with the unparalleled demands of the COVID-19 pandemic. ASPR’s public servants have helped lead the charge in the fight against COVID-19 and their tireless response efforts continue to bolster our nation’s ongoing recovery every day.

The ASPR team has done, and continues to do, exceptional work to protect the health and safety of all Americans. Always prepared to pivot when changes occur, ASPR teams have worked on the end-to-end development of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics; supported our healthcare and public health partners as they worked to address patient surges in communities across the country; collected, analyzed, and distributed critical information to government officials and the American people; responded to natural and man-made disasters and public health emergencies; administered COVID-19 tests, vaccines, and therapeutics; and more.

I am proud and humbled to share with you that members of ASPR have been named finalists for this year’s Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal, also known as the Sammies. BARDA’s Ebola Medical Countermeasures Taskforce led by David Boucher, PhD; John Lee, PhD; and Dan Wolfe, PhD, are being recognized for their role in developing vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostic tests that have already been used to halt the spread of the deadly Ebola virus and avert the possibility of another pandemic. While most of the world has focused on COVID-19, this task force has helped protect us all from Ebola. Join me in congratulating David, John and Dan for this outstanding recognition. This prestigious nomination would not be possible without many other ASPR and BARDA staff who facilitated their work.

For many, it’s more than a job; it’s a calling, a drive to serve, and a way to give back to our nation.

During Public Service Recognition Week, please join me in taking a moment to say “thanks” to our devoted public servants in ASPR and across federal, state, tribal and territorial governments in gratitude for their experience, expertise, commitment, hard work, dedication, courage, and irreplaceable contributions.

I am proud to serve with each and every one of you.

May 03
U.S. Federal Responders Vaccinate Some 5600 People in the Republic of Palau to Combat COVID-19

Line outsdie the vaccination center in Palau


Approximately 340 islands in the western Pacific -- more than 4000 miles away from Hawaii -- make up the Republic of Palau, a country with which the United States has deep ties that date back to the end of World War II. Recognizing the success of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution by the U.S. government, Palau requested assistance through the U.S. Embassy in Koror – their largest city – and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services answered the call. Captain Erik Vincent of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps led a team of 14 National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) responders on a three week mission to vaccinate more than 5600 people in Palau.


National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) responders


As the U.S. kept pace to reach and exceed the Biden Administration’s goal of 200 million COVID-19 vaccinations in their first 100 days of the administration, the request from the island nation represented a strategic partnership that has been ongoing since the two countries signed a Compact of Free Association in 1982, where the U.S. agreed to provide various types of support for the islands including defense support as well as health and medical services. In fact, the small group of islands even have two U.S. zip codes. HHS recognized the need to assist Palau’s health and medical service in preventing COVID-19 from reaching the islands, which could devastate the relatively small population of more than 17,000 who rely on tourism, farming and fishing for their livelihood. Especially when, to date, there had been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Palau – meaning there was no recorded community or person-to-person spread of the novel virus.


Palau vaccination center


The word ‘Palau’ roughly translates in one of the island’s native languages to “village,” and it certainly took a village to coordinate all the necessary actions required to get a team from NDMS on the ground to help the Palau Ministry of Health. Captain Vincent led the NDMS team through the various requirements including every responder being fully vaccinated prior to departure, a 5-day restricted movement period upon arrival, and multiple negative COVID-19 tests.


NDMS Team members


The team knew that the long trip to the islands and all of the requirements were worth the effort to keep Palau free of COVID-19 cases. Some NDMS team members traveled as far as from the East Coast. After working with the U.S. Embassy and the Palau Ministry of Health to plan out vaccinations across the islands, the vaccinators provided the people of Palau over 300 shots per day of either the Johnson&Johnson or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines – sometimes having to carry the vaccine in coolers as they ventured to more remote parts of the islands.


Folks inside the Palau vaccination center waiting to be registered.


We were able to recently catch up with Capt. Vincent, the team Pharmacist Dr. Sridevi Pochincherla, as well as their fellow teammates Heather Shannon, Stacy McCarthy and Jeff Allen, to speak with them about their deployment to Palau.


NDMS team member registering a patient for vaccination


Capt. Vincent and Dr. Pochincherla were honored that their team was able to work directly with the President of the small island nation and U.S. Ambassador John Hennesey-Niland. President Surangel Whipps Jr. accompanied the team on a hospital boat, where they were able to deliver vaccines in the harbor from the boat and then travel inland to vaccinate home-bound patients. Dr. Pochincherla fondly remembers the joy and excitement people had when they were welcomed into Palaun homes. This mission reminded Dr. Pochincherla of her own grandmother and family in South Asia. “That was a really special moment for me to be able to provide that service and receive that level of appreciation,” Dr. Pochincherla said.


NDMS team member administering the COVID vaccination to a Palau citizen


Nurses Heather Shannon and Stacy McCarthy recalled the amplified sense of purpose the mission gave them, both having worked on the COVID-19 pandemic response in the U.S. beginning with the repatriation missions of 2020. “It felt like we were delivering hope one shot at a time that we will see the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel,” Nurse Shannon said. “It was an unexpected bonus that we were able to experience a little bit of their history, culture and natural biodiversity.”


NDMS team member administering the COVID vaccination to a Palau citizen


For Paramedic Jeff Allen, this was his first COVID-19 deployment, something that is extremely rare among NDMS responders who have frequently deployed more than two or three times for the federal response. Jeff was unable to deploy as frequently as some responders because he was dealing with the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. as part of his everyday job as a paramedic in King County, Washington. Jeff’s was excited to get to go to Palau having seen the devastating impacts of COVID-19 at home from the early days of the pandemic.


NDMS team member checking the vaccination supplies


The team was able to provide more than 5,600 vaccinations to the people of Palau and Nurse McCarthy recalled what it was like to work on the different aspects of the pandemic. “I worked with repatriation of COVID-19 passengers from a cruise ship early last year, in a COVID ICU in the middle of last year, and at a COVID vaccination site earlier this year. It’s been fascinating to see the evolution of the pandemic and be deployed for distinct aspects of it. First, our team was supporting ICUs that were overwhelmed with COVID patients. Now, we’re vaccinating people to, hopefully, put an end to this pandemic. Our NDMS teams have been there every step of the way, supporting all aspects of the fight against COVID.”

Apr 27
Embrace the Challenge: How Startups Can Help Shift the Preparedness Paradigm

In what the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) is calling a “monumental campaign to combat, and hopefully eradicate, COVID-19,” it’s become evident that small, creative-thinking biotech companies are needed to help lead on the frontline..

Through our joint initiative, BLUE KNIGHT™, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS (JLABS) are collaborating with early-stage companies with the goal of bringing leading ideas to patients. By building the Blue Knight community, we aim to be better prepared with even more deployable potential solutions when the next health threat strikes. To do so, we are challenging you, commercial innovators, to explore multi-use opportunities for your technologies that may help shift the paradigm of preparedness and rapid health threat response.


What are “Multi-Use” Technologies?

Multi-use technology* models provoke innovators to think outside the box when conceptualizing market impact. Rather than developing a narrow concept that addresses one commercial need, multi-use technologies have the potential to address multiple gaps. One of the potential utilizations may be a medical countermeasure (MCM)—a product that may be used during or in response to a potential public health threat. Multi-use technologies can help us move out of the “one bug-one drug” mindset towards nimble and more sustainable models of innovation that are capable of addressing routine health needs and have the potential toquickly adapt to a public health threat.

Our portfolio of Blue Knight companies exemplifies the types of potential multi-use solutions we aim to support, including wearable detection devices and platform technologies that may help address emerging infectious disease needs, as well as support broader disease areas.


Three Reasons You Might Consider Identifying a Multi-Use Approach

  1. Expanded markets. Technologies that can support multiple markets are often seen as advantageous because of the potential for increased revenue and manufacturing opportunities. By broadening potential impact, your idea may appeal to a more diverse set of stakeholders, potential partners, and investors, leading to potentially greater impact for more patients. This can also allow you to diversify funding across both dilutive and non-dilutive sources.

  2. Building trust across the healthcare spectrum. Getting your technology to market can be challenging. However, once you’ve navigated the regulatory, manufacturing, and distribution hurdles with one product and application, each subsequent utilization may face fewer barriers. You may be able to leverage and maximize your initial investment in your product by supporting additional indications for that product. Multi-use technologies can help stakeholders across the healthcare spectrum – from regulators and providers to patients – gain familiarity through commercial use of these technologies prior to use as an MCM in emergency settings. When physicians can gain experience with a technology as a standard care therapeutic first, they may have increased confidence using the therapeutic in a crisis compared to something that may be developed in a specific response to the crisis. Further, every time a technology is submitted and approved for a new use, its archive of safety and efficacy data has the opportunity to be strengthened. When it comes time to evaluate for an emergency response, this data archive can become the backing for a stronger regulatory submission. Together, the combination of engaged stakeholders, strong data, and established trust may be key for streamlined adoption and use during a public health emergency.

  3. Accessing greater support. For even the most promising solutions, having a strong support network may be the most critical component in establishing a market share. Developing a multi-use technology can help you to expand your network into the preparedness space to enhance public health security through the development of MCMs. By connecting with both private and public sector mentors, you can access new perspective for anticipating the unexpected and navigating the expected barriers to becoming market ready. With preparedness solutions, developing these partnerships before the next health threat emerges may be critical. By connecting early, you may gain a better understanding of the development process and support for setting expectations while working to position your technology to help address emerging health threats.


How To Get Started: Reimagining the Possibilities of Your Technology

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen many innovators pivoting or repurposing existing science and technologies to address MCM needs. In 2020, for example, Johnson & Johnson Innovation worked with over 100 global innovators to explore COVID-19 applications for their approaches. While pivoting can help further our repertoire of pandemic solutions, it must happen more proactively because, in emergencies, it’s often the solutions with proven efficacy and safety that can be rapidly scaled to meet new manufacturing demands and deployed in unprecedented timeframes.

For companies already innovating with the aim to address infectious pathogens, pivoting for pandemic preparedness may not be a far stretch. However, if you’re focusing outside the realm of infectious disease, identifying a preparedness utility may require creativity and unorthodox thinking.

While we need solutions for combatting specific threats, it’s also critical to develop end-to-end technologies that may be foundational for improving patient care and responsiveness across routine health challenges. One great example is the safety syringe: a high-performance, retractable needle that evolved in response to an increasing incidence of needle-stick injures among medical professionals. They aren’t often at the forefront when discussing the extraordinary ideas supporting our COVID-19 response, but if the manufacturing supply chain did not already exist and providers were not already trained to use them, the vaccine rollout could have looked very different.

It’s these end-to-end solutions invested in years ago, like the safety syringe, that are now the tools helping us cross the finish line in addressing COVID-19.


Ready to Accept the Challenge?

Looking to the future, it may be the innovations of today that become the solutions for future threats. Blue Knight aims to shift the paradigm of health threat preparedness by developing a rich pipeline of science and technology solutions that can address the innovation gaps. Together, we hope to establish promising technologies now, so that they become the critical tools waiting in our toolbox to deploy during the health threat.

Let’s start reimagining possibilities together: sign up to meet with us!



Disclaimer: The content covered in this blog is intended for educational and informational purposes only and may contain opinions by persons and organizations not affiliated with Johnson & Johnson Innovation LLC, and/or its parent or affiliated companies (hereinafter collectively referred to as "JJI"). JJI makes no representations, warranties, express or implied, as to the content, the views, advice, or the information presented. This content is not intended to influence the use, sale, recommendation, or promotion of any products or services of JJI, Johnson & Johnson or its affiliates.

Acknowledgement: This blog was developed as a collaboration between BARDA and Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS and is also published on HLTH Matters Blog.


Apr 08
Innovation challenge seeks to solve a common hurdle in curbing coronavirus spread: mask design

The creative talent of inventors and entrepreneurs across the entire country is the heartbeat of our economy and our nation’s well-being. At BARDA, we’d like to tap this energy to solve a critical challenge for our country: the design of comfortable, protective facemasks for the general public. Scientific evidence shows that masks can be useful in curbing the spread of respiratory infections, yet we know that actual use is not up to the same standard as intended use. Research shows the most common reasons people don’t wear masks or don’t wear them properly: fit, comfort – including fogging glasses – and lack of confidence in the effectiveness.

Last week we launched a contest called the Mask Innovation Challenge: Building Tomorrow’s Mask to design effective, comfortable masks for the public. We’re offering $500,000 in cash prizes because we’re certain American ingenuity can design and build better masks that people are more willing to wear and trust.


In the first phase, up to 10 winning ideas will split $100,000 for winning design ideas. Ideas are due by 5 p.m. ET, April 21, 2021. In the second phase, up to five winning prototypes will split $400,000.

This contest is different from previous challenges sponsored by the private sector in that prototypes from phase 2 will be tested by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health or partner labs to determine how well the prototypes meet the performance criteria. Winners have to meet a specified filtration level. That doesn’t mean the mask will automatically receive NIOSH certification; additional development for certification would be needed through the NIOSH certification process which is independent of this competition.

We also want the winning masks to be easy to manufacture because a good idea becomes great when it hits the commercial market, and everyone starts using the product. We’re offering BARDA scientific mentorship to guide winners in completing development.

You could help solve one of the biggest problems we’re facing today and into the future. We can’t wait to see where American ingenuity leads in solving the mask challenge. Check out Challenge.gov to learn more about the contest rules, criteria, and how to participate.

 Logo for BARDA's Mask Innovation Challenge. Building Tomorrow's Mask.

Mar 17
Innovators: How Diversifying Your Network Can Help Ignite Ideas

Launching an innovative product or technology takes more than a good idea, and there are many actions startups can take to strengthen their offering and overall chance of success as they develop the latest innovations to bolster health security, including battling COVID-19. Over the last year, the global scientific community has proven critical to our collective ability to combat the pandemic, and Blue Knight™ offers a new way to build the kinds of partnerships needed to advance potentially life-saving technology during public health emergencies.

Blue Knight is a joint initiative between Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) that aims to forge a path to a more prepared and protected future by providing support for strategically aligned start-up companies and elevating important topics through expert programming.


Investing in Your Success: Tips for a Strong Pitch

At the close of 2020, we joined the culminating session of the BLUE KNIGHTSymposium to discuss strategies for investing in and nurturing early-stage innovation to improve health security. At the Symposium, we witnessed first-hand that when worldwide experts come together, we are able to probe deeper to address challenges and identify priorities to strengthen preparedness and health security.

We were joined by internationally recognized innovation leader, Geoffrey Ling, M.D., Ph.D., for a forthright dialogue that provided early-stage innovators with tips for overcoming barriers. The panel was led by entrepreneur Stephanie Culler, Ph.D., Co-Founder and CEO of Persephone Biosciences, a Blue Knight company. Here are key takeaways from the discussion. 

To fuel early-stage, high-risk innovations, we look for ideas with the potential to cross the ultimate finish line: meeting the unmet needs of patients. By offering transparent advice, we hope to help those on the frontlines of innovation develop stronger proposals, foster connections, and access the support needed to make their next big move.

  1. Establish your vision. Having a cutting-edge idea and deep understanding of its scientific basis is key, but it can be even more critical to clearly articulate the transformational impact this science could have on public health. We see a lot of solutions that are lacking a compelling problem. A flashy technology is not attractive if there is no potential application – to have a disruptive idea, you need to be solving an existing or anticipated challenge. What problem is your solution solving? Does your innovation have the potential to improve access and efficiency of diagnoses? Is it a cost-effective solution that may help address disparities in healthcare access? Not all innovative technologies need to be transformational or revolutionary, but they do need to be impactful in addressing a public health need. You must be visionary in the early stages of your company by considering the potential value your innovation brings to the market and articulating that upfront in your pitch.

  2. Diversify your customers. When considering markets for science and technology aiming to address global health threats, identifying a ”dual utility” or multi-use value application is a sustainable and adept approach. Dual utility or multi-use products and technologies are developed to have both commercial and biodefense applications, thus enhancing our ability to respond effectively to a broad array of threats and in emergency situations. Public and private partners are eager to engage with promising ideas that have dual-use potential, because – as Dr. Ling of On Demand Pharmaceuticals explained during the panel – “Dual use products are important from many aspects…selling to the government is a limited market; you have to expand your product’s market potential, so finding an application that the civilian sector would also embrace gives you access to much more capital… and therefore the ability to make further improvements and investments in your product.”

  3. Diversify your partners. A multi-use model also opens the door to a more diverse group of prospective partners, thus expanding the advice and mentorship you may have access to. Potential partners are always looking to mitigate risk when supporting novel ideas, and multi-use applications create a chance to strategically align and share risk across multiple invested stakeholders. By bringing together different stakeholders, all parties involved will expand their knowledge networks.

  4. Strengthen your team. For potential investors, a remarkable team may be as important as a compelling idea. When evaluating a proposal, we aren’t just looking at your science, but also at your management team, founders and external networks of support. A disruptive idea often comes from a strong scientific team, but lack of know-how on the strategy and management side can be a fatal flaw. Getting through the business, legal, and regulatory hurdles that entrepreneurs face in order to have their products reach patients and consumers takes the wisdom of an experienced team. It’s important to be proactive about forging strong and diverse relationships– especially with mentors who have extensive experience accelerating innovation and offer a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives. Veteran innovators can help remove the guesswork and help startups remain forward-thinking when advancing their ideas.

  5. Diversify your funding. It’s also important to remain open to various types of funding. There can be a tension around the balance of dilutive and non-dilutive funding. Non-dilutive funding is often extremely attractive to a startup because it won’t reduce shareholder value for founders and existing investors – and it can potentially lead to more rapid validation. Though, the amount of time it takes to secure non-dilutive funding and the constraints and reporting required are downsides to consider. From a venture perspective, you should always look more holistically at business models and funding options before identifying the best path forward.

If you are interested in taking a deeper dive into any or all of these concepts, check out the full remarks in our on-demand presentation.


Connecting to Catalyze: An Opportunity to Access an Expert Network    

At the end of the day, even with the right science, the right target market, and the right funding, the path to bringing an idea to  market is prone to detours and roadblocks. Success requires creativity and unwavering passion. We believe that entrepreneurs who build a network of diverse stakeholders – all passionate about their success and who will be there to help pivot and persevere – may have a stronger chance at getting their solutions to patients.

By finding partners and mentors in the early stages, entrepreneurs can gain the expertise and insights to look ahead to anticipate and mitigate risks.

If you’re working on the frontlines of innovation with the aim to improve health security, we want to hear from you. Our Blue Knight collaboration was formed with a keen interest in sourcing innovation that has applications for today, while improving our readiness to combat unknown threats of tomorrow. United, we are able to provide promising startups with the robust, multi-specialty mentorship and resources from both the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies and BARDA networks.

It’s never too early to start making connections and building the foundation and support that may help propel your science or technology forward. If you’re ready to progress your compelling idea for improving preparedness and response to health threats, visit the Blue Knight website to get connected or apply to join.


####

Disclaimer: The content covered in this blog is intended for educational and informational purposes only and may contain opinions by persons and organizations not affiliated with Johnson & Johnson Innovation LLC, and/or its parent or affiliated companies (hereinafter collectively referred to as “JJI”). JJI makes no representations, warranties, express or implied, as to the content, the views, advice, or the information presented. This content is not intended to influence the use, sale, recommendation, or promotion of any products or services of JJI, Johnson & Johnson or its affiliates.

Source: Johnson and Johnson Innovation - JLABS

Mar 16
Logistically Supporting the COVID Response Daily, One Responder’s Reflections on COVID-19 over the Course of the Pandemic

“For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.” – Benjamin Franklin



Robert Daley, logistics section chief of the Incident Management Team-East, is no stranger to managing the complex logistics of an emergency response with the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS). He has a long career of being a paramedic and a firefighter before joining NDMS in 1996, and has responded to many major emergencies over the past few decades including the major earthquakes in Iran and Haiti; the response to 9/11; and Hurricanes Katrina, Irma and Maria. Just like many of us, Bob has been contending with the pandemic since the very beginning and over a year later he continues to support the logistics of the federal government’s response. Bob has helped with every aspect of this pandemic from the early days of PPE shortages and flattening the curve to the different requirements for medical care during a pandemic as well as antibody infusions and vaccine administration.


Robert Daley


Immediately after supporting the January 2020 State of the Union, Bob was called upon to help support the logistical aspects of repatriating hundreds of Americans and their families from Wuhan, China. He is one of our everyday heroes that helps make disaster response at HHS happen. He and more than 2,800 responders from across the country have deployed, often multiple times, to support the whole of government pandemic response. While many who have been impacted by disaster know about our NDMS medical professionals, none of the work they do would be possible without the many people behind the scenes, like Bob, who are making sure that assets, resources, and people get where they need to be, stay safe, and are available to provide the best of care in the worst of times.


Passenger planes on the airport tarmac


Following the repatriation mission, Bob helped coordinate surge support at the Kirkland Nursing Facility in Washington State and then continued from there to the Javits Center in New York City. Since then, Bob has deployed to 12 states supporting different NDMS missions, including hospital surge support, monoclonal antibody infusion support, and vaccine administration.


NDMS Teams


The logistics team that Bob helps lead has one mission during disasters and public health emergencies and that is to support the deployed medical teams. Without logistics, our doctors and nurses would have no PPE, no medical supplies and pharmaceuticals, no computers, phones or power. They wouldn’t even have a place to sleep at night. Logistics is the backbone of our deployments, working around the clock often days before our medical personnel arrive and days or even weeks after our medical personnel return back home.


Image of HHS DMAT uniform and a t-shirt with Logistics printed on the back


Often times, a hospital will be damaged by a hurricane, tornado, or other natural disaster, and logistics will be called upon to set up a temporary facility. Once these facilities are established, logistic personnel make sure they are fully equipped to care for COVID-19 patients. This includes securing beds, linens, food and water, and medical supplies and medical equipment – including personal protective equipment (PPE) testing supplies, ventilators, oxygen and pharmaceuticals. If using temporary tents to care for patients, logistics personnel must acquire everything from light towers and hand washing stations to generators and fuel. Once the site is no longer operational, logistics personnel are responsible to make sure all equipment and supplies are accounted for and returned or moved to support the next site.


Bob Daley and unidentified male at the Tuscon Medical Center


Most recently, Bob deployed to the Tucson Medical Center to lead the logistics of the federally supported monoclonal antibody treatment center. This was the second of what would become four federally supported infusion sites. He dove right into the challenge, securing space for patients, resources for the infusions, and even going above and beyond to deliver more COVID-19 tests to the hospital’s clinic so that more patients could be tested and referred for antibody infusions. The four federally supported infusion centers directly prevented over 1000+ COVID positive patients from needing to be treated for severe illness, including Ms. Joyce Sonday who was the 500th patient to receive the treatment in Tucson. Bob presented Joyce with a logistics challenge coin, a small token of his appreciation to mark that she was the 500th patient to receive the monoclonal antibody treatment. In fact, thanks in part to his leadership, ASPR was able to replicate this success and build a digital toolkit for communities across the country to set up these infusion sites.


Bob Daley meeting with a male government personnel


The COVID-19 pandemic has presented extraordinary challenges to every American and the logistics team Bob assists in leading helped ASPR meet those challenges at every step of the way. He’s been on the front lines since the pandemic was declared to help accomplish an unprecedented mission through sweat and a determination to succeed and a must not fail attitude during this unprecedented national public health crisis. He is extremely proud of being able to contribute to the whole-of government response and continues to have total respect for his colleagues and the stamina that they bring to help the American people. For more information about NDMS, visit www.phe.gov/ndms.

Feb 19
Speeding Recovery, Restoring Joy for a High-Risk COVID-19 Patient

Joyce Sonday of Tucson, Arizona, loved walking her property and the neighborhood regularly, visiting with family and cooking for her husband, but all of that changed when she contracted COVID-19. She became exhausted and lost her taste and sense of smell. She wasn’t sure what was wrong but her husband experienced the same symptoms. At first she thought they had sinus infections but decided to go to their local clinic where she and her husband tested positive for COVID-19.

Joyce Sonday holding NDMS coins

Fortunately they knew a treatment was available, and that they were eligible to receive the treatment. They qualified under the FDA Emergency Use Authorization criteria because they are in their 60s and had underlying medical conditions that placed them at high risk of developing severe infections and becoming hospitalized. Less than a day later she and her husband had appointments to receive infusions of COVID-19 monoclonal antibody therapeutics at the Tucson Medical Center, one of several federal infusion sites launched at the beginning of the year.

Monoclonal antibody therapeutics help eligible high-risk adults and children (12-17) who have tested positive for COVID-19 and have mild to moderate symptoms. These therapeutics have been granted Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat eligible COVID-19 patients. The treatment, which takes a total of about two hours (Joyce reports she was able to comfortably watch her favorite football game while she was being treated), and the treatments can help boost the body’s immune response, keeping patients out of the hospital. The Tucson Medical Center, which was one of the first federally-supported COVID-19 infusion centers, is one of more than 4,800 sites across the country where these FDA-authorized treatments are available.

Medical professionals from the National Disaster Medical System partnered with Tucson Medical Center to set up an infusion center that could see up to 40 COVID-19 patients per day. Ms. Sonday happened to be the 500th patient seen across several federally-supported infusion centers. She and her husband are among the thousands of patients who have recovered and are feeling better after being treated. To date, none of the patients treated at the federal-supported infusion centers have needed to return for further COVID-19 treatment and none have required hospitalization related to COVID-19.

Joyce and her husband are happy to report that they are feeling much better, and they are relieved to be able to get this treatment. Joyce is happy to be back to doing the things she loves to do. After getting treated, she regained her sense of taste and smell, and with it her joy of cooking. She says she and her husband are registered to get the COVID-19 vaccine when their turn arrives. They have no desire to experience the effects of COVID-19 again, and they can’t wait to see their family when allowed.

Joyce is not alone in her story. Providers across the country can learn lessons from the NDMS-launched infusion centers which the local hospital systems were able to take over, as originally planned, with a small staffing requirement. ASPR has a toolkit and other resources to help providers and communities set up similar sites to reduce the burden on their hospitals and help COVID-19 patients recover. While the COVID-19 vaccines are the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, therapies like monoclonal antibodies are available today to help treat patients and potentially save lives.

Feb 11
On the Scene, Saving Lives

​Responders from the National Disaster Medical System Answer the Call to Service during the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond

The dedicated individuals of the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) - known for their expertise, their teamwork, and their selfless commitment to saving lives during disasters and emergencies - have worked tirelessly on the front lines of health to fight COVID-19. More than 2,500 NDMS responders have deployed since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 and continue to deploy to support federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal partners, providing hospital surge support, administering COVID-19 monoclonal antibody therapeutics, supporting mass vaccination efforts, and more.

The breadth and scope of their missions has been nothing short of amazing and I would like to take a moment now to thank all of the men and women of NDMS for their dedication to service.  NDMS responders have been on the frontlines of health from the beginning of the response and they continue to serve.

Here are just a few of their extraordinary efforts in response to COVID-19:

When President Biden recently set the goal of administering 100 million shots in 100 days and expanding access to vaccines to more Americans, NDMS teams deployed to support mass vaccination efforts in Nevada and Arizona, getting shots into the arms of thousands of eligible individuals.
NDMS responder vaccinating patient
Following the FDA authorization of monoclonal antibody therapeutics for treating patients with mild to moderate cases of COVID-19, NDMS supported temporary infusion clinics in Arizona, California, and Nevada to administer these treatments that can help eligible high-risk adults and children avoid hospitalization. NDMS respodners administer monoclonal antibody therapeutics
NDMS teams deployed to hospitals and healthcare facilities across the country to bolster capacity. From major urban cities to small rural communities, from New York City to the Navajo Nation to Alaska to Guam and points between, NDMS deployed to help frontline healthcare workers provide vital medical care in their communities.   NDMS respoders treating COVID-19 patient.
When, during the initial stages of the pandemic, Americans needed to be brought home from places with high risk for coronavirus infection, such as Wuhan, China and the cruise ship quarantined at Yokohama, Japan, NDMS teams were on the scene. In total, more than 3,000 individuals were brought home during various repatriation and quarantine missions.
Grand Princess Cruise Ship

Responding to COVID-19 was not their only mission. Last year, NDMS responders were deployed to lead and support field operations in the aftermath of nine hurricanes, an earthquake, wildfires that ravaged two states, and seven National Security Special Events (NSSE); often responding within hours of being called.

When these heroes aren’t providing necessary care and services in areas impacted by disasters and other health emergencies, they are the physicians, registered nurses, dentists, paramedics, and other medical and support professionals who we trust with our health on a daily basis. When called upon, these professionals rise to the challenge, carrying on NDMS’s long and proud history of going to where they are needed to protect health and save lives.

When NDMS deploys during a disaster, they make a real difference to the communities they serve.  They set up temporary medical facilities and provide help that can transform hospital operations.  They have helped get shots of COVID-19 vaccine into arms. They have treated more than a thousand eligible COVID-19 patients with monoclonal antibody therapeutic treatments. During this pandemic, they have saved lives, supported frontline healthcare workers, treated patients, and more. Thanks to each and every NDMS professional for your service.

NDMS responders at the Javits Center
Dec 28
Community-Based Organizations Are More Important Than Ever During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Four New Tools for the Community-Based Organization's Toolkit

How Community-Based Organizations Can Leverage Innovative Practices, Build New Partnerships, and More for At-Risk Individuals During the COVID-19 Pandemic


“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” – Hellen Keller


If you work for a community-based organization (CBO) , you may have seen demand for your services rise during the COVID-19 pandemic – often without a corresponding rise in the resources required to meet the demand. In many areas, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit populations who were already at-risk especially hard, often resulting in an increased need for services.

Community health centers, childcare providers, food banks, low-income housing providers, home visiting programs, shelters and other service providers who address domestic violence, homeless services providers, and members of aging and disability networks all perform vital services in their communities – and many providers are trying to find creative solutions to rapidly evolving problems. To guide you through some of these complex issues, we have developed a series of resources to help you build stronger relationships, return to work safely, use innovative approaches, and more.

ASPR’s At-Risk Individuals Program developed a toolkit with four tools that professionals in CBOs can use to more effectively leverage or grow existing resources and have a greater impact their your communities.

  • Equipping CBOs to Return to Work: Considerations for the Workforce and Workplace: Supporting staff as they return to work will involve many short- and long-term adaptations for addressing their safety. It is essential that CBO leaders provide accurate and timely information about the pandemic, link employees with new and updated policies, and offer resources to help manage stress, support coping, and address safety.

  • Supporting Clients and Family Caregiving Networks during COVID-19: COVID-19 has increased the challenges of caregiving. Family caregivers take many forms and may include family members or other informal care providers of long-term services, supports, as well as health care and social services. Family caregivers and other service providers need additional support to adapt and maintain services. The resources in the CBO toolkit can help family caregivers handle social distancing, leverage telehealth best practices, and more.

  • Bringing Innovation to CBO Service: In response to COVID-19, CBOs throughout the country have developed partnerships and implemented new practices to ensure that the access and functional needs of at-risk individuals are considered. This includes expanded access to telehealth medical services and other technology.

  • Improving the Integration of CBOs: Building Relationships in Preparation for the Next Emergency: As trusted entities within their communities, CBOs are well positioned to partner with emergency management and public health entities to address the access and functional needs of at-risk individuals during future public health emergencies. Increased utilization of community data, as well as cross-sector partnerships between CBOs and health care organizations can meaningfully address the access and functional needs of communities.


During the holidays, we at ASPR are especially grateful for the dedication that CBOs have to their communities and for the services they provide throughout the year. Thank you for your support at a time when it is urgently needed. The work that you are doing to provide for others during this trying time is important to the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of many people in your community . We encourage you to check out the resources above to help your organization work more effectively, and ultimately continue to serve at-risk individuals during the holidays and throughout the year.

Dec 10
The HHS emPOWER Program Launches a New Platform to Support Community Partners
New HHS emPOWER Program Platform Brings Tools and Resources to the Fingertips of Community Partners to Help Protect At-Risk Individuals

HHS emPOWER Program (emPOWER) has officially launched the HHS emPOWER Program Platform, a new mobile-ready technical assistance platform that provides public health, health care, and emergency management organizations, first responders, power companies, and many other partners with emPOWER data, tools, training, and informational resources to help them anticipate, plan for, and respond to incidents, emergencies, and disasters in their communities. 

icon of emPOWER Program site

The Platform was developed in response to partner requests and provides readily meaningful, consumable, and actionable information and resources in a centralized location. Anyone can now rapidly access, adopt, download, and operationalize emPOWER tools, resources, and HHS emPOWER Map de-identified data to help protect the health of electricity- and health care-dependent at-risk populations living independently in communities across our nation. Partners can learn about the history of emPOWER on the About page and rapidly access the Platform’s Resources page to find new fact sheets, job aids, quick reference resources, and more tools that have been and will continue to be developed with their unique needs in mind. Partners can also discover how rural-to-urban communities across the nation have used emPOWER tools to enhance their health care situational awareness, coordinate planning activities across community partners, and innovatively conduct life-saving outreach activities using the emPOWER in Action interactive map and by reviewing detailed Stories from the Field.

thumbnail of HHS emPOWER Mao homepage

The Program has also re-launched an improved, mobile-ready HHS emPOWER Map that can be found at a new website address, https://empowerprogram.hhs.gov/empowermap. Based on partner feedback, emPOWER updated the Map to include new capabilities that enable users to download data and perform advanced cross-jurisdictional data aggregations. The Platform also features an informational HHS emPOWER Map page with historical HHS emPOWER Map datasets to support those seeking to perform analyses to better understand historical trends in electricity-dependent population density by geography in their community.

In addition to launching the Platform and new HHS emPOWER Map, emPOWER has released new and enhanced versions of emPOWER tools. The enhanced HHS emPOWER Representational State Transfer (REST) Service_Public enables users to readily access and apply the map data layer to their own geographic information system (GIS) application to support national, state, territory, local, and community-based GIS analyses. The award-winning, artificial intelligence (AI) tool, emPOWER AI puts the HHS emPOWER Map data right in the palm of the user’s hand, leveraging Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa to help enhance the user’s situational awareness of electricity-dependent populations. In addition, emPOWER has expanded its emPOWERing State/Territorial Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Data Pilot to advance states’ and territories’ understanding of pediatric and other adult at-risk populations in their communities. To help users better understand how to implement these tools effectively, we have released a comprehensive web-based training and created a robust suite of informational resources.

The new HHS emPOWER Platform is advancing the Program’s commitment to providing the right data, in the right tool, to the right person, at the right time. Leveraging the data, tools, and resources on the Platform will help federal to community partners in most critical infrastructure sectors, support, and advance emergency preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation activities to protect the health and meet the needs of at-risk individuals in their communities. To learn more, please visit the new HHS emPOWER Program Platform or check out the HHS emPOWER Program Platform Fact Sheet



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