What we must do to prepare for the next pandemic, a guest commentary

David Beier
4 min readJan 29, 2021

By David Beier and Bob Kocher

This article first ran in BioCentury on January 28, 2021

The U.S. is not ready for the next pandemic. Our public health infrastructure and planning process are not up to the challenge, our capacity to treat at-risk citizens is insufficient, and we are not making enough of a new category of antiviral that can treat emerging viruses: mAbs derived from patients.

The bottom line is this — we are poised to make the same mistakes again unless we act now. Five measures would help the U.S. scale up testing, therapeutics and vaccine development. The goal must be to create policies, financial structures and new capabilities that enable innovation, provide the necessary manufacturing capabilities, and protect the supply chain before the next pandemic hits.

Years before the COVID crisis struck, prior presidents (Bush and Obama) focused on pandemic planning, for example by setting standards for a national stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE). But the Trump administration failed to build up our reserves or secure our supply, shutting down the unit of the National Security Council tasked with global health security. Fortunately, one of Biden’s first acts as president was to restore this office.

Our health system has struggled to deliver mAbs targeting the virus, which can prevent infections from becoming severe, because these therapies require IV administration and access to infusion centers is primarily at the same hospitals that are overburdened and trying to avoid serving early-stage patients. If health systems figure out how to administer mAbs to all the patients who would benefit, we will quickly experience shortages since there are not enough doses being manufactured.

The Biden administration is faced with fixing this fact and has created a temporary White House office led by Jeff Zients to develop a national plan and assist states in operationalizing it.

The industrial landscape should include alliances and agreements to cooperate to serve the supply chain as a matter of routine.

The one bright spot has been vaccine development. The dedication of modern science to truth and the hard work of testing biological hypotheses has resulted in multiple highly effective vaccines. The…

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David Beier

Managing Director, Bay City Capital, San Francisco, CA. Previously Chief Domestic Policy to Vice President Al Gore. Senior corporate officer DNA and Amgen