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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

News Release

October 2, 2017​
HHS Press Office: (202) 690-6343
Twitter @HHSMedia​

HHS pursues reusable respirator to better protect medical providers during pandemics

Ensuring an adequate supply of respirators for first responders and health care professionals is critical to protecting the health of workers on the front lines responding to pandemics and other public health emergencies. To meet this need, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Applied Research Associates, Inc. of Albuquerque, New Mexico, will partner to advance the development of respirators that can be reused up to 100 times.

“During public health emergencies, particularly in severe pandemics, equipment may be in short supply to protect the professionals who are essential to saving lives,” explained BARDA Director Rick Bright, Ph.D. “By sponsoring the development of a novel, reusable respirator, we aim to make such personal protective equipment widely available during an emergency at the lowest possible cost.”

Through a 15-month, $1.97 million contract, Applied Research Associates will design and test a next-generation respirator prototype that will be a hybrid of the N95 Filtering Facepiece Respirator and a half-mask elastomeric respirator. If successfully developed and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the reusable mask could be autoclaved at medical facilities to sanitize the mask for reuse. Such a mask also could be incorporated into routine healthcare practice making them readily available in a pandemic or other public health emergency.

Reusable masks may reduce stockpiling and distribution costs to taxpayers and could ensure wider availability for first responders and healthcare providers during public health emergencies. The masks also may provide protection from multiple threats, including anthrax, Ebola and pandemic influenza.

BARDA provides a comprehensive, integrated, portfolio approach to the advanced research and development, innovation, acquisition, and manufacturing infrastructure for vaccines, drugs, therapeutics, diagnostic tools, and non-pharmaceutical products for public health emergency caused by chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats, pandemic influenza and emerging infectious diseases.

ASPR leads HHS in preparing the nation to respond to and recover from adverse health effects of emergencies, supporting communities’ ability to withstand adversity, strengthening health and response systems and enhancing national health security. HHS is the principal federal department for protecting the health of all Americans and providing es​sential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves.

To learn more about ASPR and BARDA, as well as preparedness, response and recovery from the health impacts of disasters, visit the HHS public health and medical emergency website, and the HHS emergency medical countermeasures website,

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  • This page last reviewed: August 06, 2020