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Roberts Applauds HELP Pandemic Bill's Zoonatic Focus
USAgNet - 05/24/2018

U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) Wednesday said the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation (PAHPAI) Act including his provisions to create an expedited pathway for animal drugs that treat zoonotic and vector-borne diseases. The Committee favorably reported out the bill with a vote of 22-1.

"It is critical for our nation's preparedness and response capabilities to include efforts to combat zoonotic diseases that can spread from animals to people. Nearly every pandemic threat today is a zoonotic disease, and recent studies have shown that the majority of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic. I am pleased the Committee has acted in a bipartisan way to address these threats and I urge my colleagues to support it on the floor."

Among the bioterror threats for which the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued a Material Threat Determination, all, except for smallpox, are zoonotic -- meaning they pose a direct threat to humans through animals.

Roberts' provision speeds Food and Drug Administration approval of animal drugs that treat zoonotic and vector-borne diseases through a new Priority Zoonotic Animal Drug designation.

"We can more quickly develop, review, and bring to market therapies that prevent and treat zoonotic diseases with the potential to cause serious harm in humans," Roberts said.

Roberts also worked to ensure the bill incorporates zoonotic diseases and outbreaks related to food and agriculture into our National Health Security Strategy. This compliments his efforts as Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee to improve the nation's bio and agro-defense preparedness in the event of a threat be it naturally occurring or intentional.

In December 2017, the Agriculture Committee heard testimony from General Richard Myers, president of Kansas State University, which is home of the now under construction - National Bio and Agro-defense Facility (NBAF). According to General Myers' testimony, until NBAF is operational in the next four to five years, there is no U.S. laboratory where livestock research can be conducted on Nipah and Ebola, and swine are host animals for both of these deadly viruses.

In July 2017, legislation Senator Roberts introduced called The Securing our Agriculture and Food Act was signed into law. It required DHS, through the Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs, to lead the government's efforts to secure the nation's food, agriculture, and veterinary systems against terrorism and high-risk events. The bill also authorizes the secretary to collaborate with other agencies to ensure food, agriculture, and animal and human health sectors receive attention and are integrated into DHS's domestic preparedness policy initiatives.

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