Skip to main content

Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security Commends U.S. Senators Baldwin, Casey, King, and Smith for Introducing the Disease X Act to Respond to Future Viral Outbreaks

Center News


August 9, 2021 – The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security strongly supports and endorses the Disease X Act introduced by U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin and co-sponsors U.S Senator Bob Casey, U.S. Senator Angus King and U.S. Senator Tina Smith on August 5, 2021. The Disease X Act will help the U.S. to better prepare for future pandemics through the rapid development of medical countermeasures against unknown viral agents likely to cause pandemics.

The Disease X Act would provide $500 million per year for 4 years, starting in Fiscal Year 2022, for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for a Disease X Medical Countermeasures Program aimed at developing responses to unknown viral threats.

In addition to naturally occurring threats, rapid advances in the biological sciences increase the chance that biotechnology could be used to create novel pathogens with the potential to start major epidemics or pandemics. Whether a future pandemic threat is naturally occurring or deliberately caused, our best defense will be safe and effective medical countermeasures – drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics. The development of these life-saving products usually takes years.

“Infectious disease outbreaks now occur three times more often than they did 40 years ago. The next pandemic, driven by an unknown Disease X, will come,” said Senator Baldwin. “We should not be waiting for the next viral threat to emerge. We must invest in the development of novel antivirals, vaccines, and diagnostics for unknown threats now so that we are better prepared to control the spread than we were at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The new Disease X Program would use a viral family-based approach to development to accelerate the process and be better prepared for a wide range of novel viral threats.

“The profound effects of this pandemic should galvanize members of Congress to do everything in their power to prevent a global pandemic like COVID-19, or worse, from happening again and to be better prepared if it does,” said Anita Cicero, Deputy Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “Senator Baldwin and her co-sponsor’s legislation to establish a dedicated ‘Disease X’ medical countermeasure program will enable the U.S. to rapidly develop drugs, diagnostics, and vaccines against unknown viral threats in order to save lives and safeguard the economy in future events.”

The new legislation outlines how the new program would be built. To establish the Disease X medical countermeasures program, BARDA would coordinate and collaborate with relevant agencies across the Public Health Emergency Medical Countermeasures Enterprise (PHEMCE), leveraging the expertise of officials across the government to inform a strategic approach to MCM development.

The Disease X Act is supported by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security; Infectious Diseases Society of America; FluGen; AttWill Medical Solutions; International Society for Antiviral Research.

Learn more about the need for a Disease X Medical Countermeasure Program.

Read U.S. Senator Baldwin’s full press release.

The full text of the bill is available here.