The Division of Strategic Science and Technology (SST) identifies and supports the advancement of platform technologies that enhance capabilities for the development and manufacturing of medical countermeasures (MCMs). SST supports applications that focus on biodefense, pandemic influenza and other emerging diseases. SST also helps to identify innovative strategies and tools to reduce the time and cost of development, testing, and production, and ease of use of medical countermeasures in the event of an emergency. The successful application of these approaches can make it possible to develop, manufacture, test, and deliver safe and effective MCMs more quickly, more reliably, in larger amounts and at a lower cost than is possible with current capabilities.
Advancing Innovative Technologies to Improve Operational Capacity
The Pandemic and All Hazard Preparedness Act (PAHPA) directs BARDA to promote innovations in technologies that may assist medical countermeasure advanced research and development. SST is the focal point within BARDA for advocating and supporting technological changes in the nation's biomedical infrastructure that will improve its operational capability for effective response to diverse public health emergencies.
Engaging with Product Developers through TechWatch
As part of its mission to support innovative strategies and platform technologies for MCMs, SST leads the BARDA TechWatch program. TechWatch provides product developers with an opportunity to meet with staff at BARDA and other partners across the Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasures Enterprise (PHEMCE) to discuss MCMs, platform technologies and other innovative tools that they have under development.
To take advantage of this opportunity, product developers request a meeting and submit information on the MCMs or platform technologies that they are developing through MedicalCountermeasures.gov. The meetings give organizations the chance to receive guidance from BARDA staff on possible next steps in the development of products. The meetings also provide opportunities to discuss programmatic funding and support for development. In turn, the TechWatch meetings provide the government with the latest information about emerging technologies and tools that may guide strategic and programmatic planning.
The TechWatch program has been highly successful in improving communication between BARDA and its potential partners. As part of the funding process, BARDA reviews whitepaper submissions in response to a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) funding opportunity. Those companies who utilize TechWatch prior to submitting a white paper in response to a BAA are generally about three times more likely to be invited to submit a full proposal than companies that proceed directly to the white paper without the benefit of a TechWatch meeting.
Funding Development of Promising Technologies
The scientific application of the platform technologies supported by SST is focused on capabilities to address novel and emerging threats in biodefense, pandemic influenza, and other emerging infectious diseases. SST is open to evaluation of technologies at multiple stages of development, but prioritizes projects that are sufficiently mature for regulatory review and approval. SST facilitates their implementation by working collaboratively with other BARDA divisions (CBRN, Pandemic Influenza, and Emerging Diseases), other U.S. government agencies comprising the Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasure Enterprise (e.g., FDA, CDC, and NIH), as well with industry, academic, and private partners to advance the understanding and adoption of promising innovative strategies and platform technologies. SST activities include technology scouting, facilitated interchange (symposia and workshops), direct inter-agency and extramural funding, and participation in the medical countermeasures policy and requirements-setting process. A number of innovative platforms developed with support from SST have successfully moved through regulatory approval and are being adopted in the clinical and public health setting.