Weekly updates on the US federal government’s response to COVID-19 and research opportunities.
Congressional and Federal Updates
Senate Returns to Washington Despite COVID-19 Concerns
The Senate returns to Washington on May 4 under controversial circumstances as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reconvenes the Senate amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The House of Representatives was also originally scheduled to return to Capitol Hill on May 4; however, after consulting with the Capitol’s attending physician, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) made the decision to postpone the House’s return until Monday, May 11 due to COVID-19 related concerns.
One hearing is scheduled for the Senate Health, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) Committee on May 6 to examine COVID-19 testing, and will feature the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Dr. Francis Collins and acting Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) Director, Dr. Gary Disbrow as witnesses. With both the House and Senate expected to be back in session next week, additional details of a possible fourth COVID-19 package may start to emerge.
Federal Guidance Related to Research and Higher Education
Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) posted a notice that the agency will extend flexibility for 60 calendar days for responses to Requests for Evidence, Notices of Intent to Deny, and other documents if the issuance date is between March 1 and July 1, 2020. Further details are available here.
Department of Education (ED)
On April 30, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released details on the CARES Act-funded Higher Education Emergency Relief (HEER) Fund’s specific allocations for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), other designated Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs), such as Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), and low-resourced institutions serving over 50 percent needy students. ED also announced funds for smaller institutions available through the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) program. Details on the new funding allocations, Certification and Agreement documents, and applications procedures are available here.
Research and Funding Opportunities
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
On April 29, NIH announced a new fast-track program for COVID-19 test development and distribution. The Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) program will leverage the existing Point-of-Care Technology Research Network (POCTRN) supported by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) to support novel solutions to ramp up national capacity for SARS-CoV-2 testing. NIBIB is urgently soliciting proposals and will provide up to $500 million across multiple projects to produce SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic tests. The RADx program will support all phases of product development from conceptualization and design to prototyping, performance evaluation, clinical validation, and manufacturing.
Proposals will be accepted on a rolling basis starting April 29 and will be reviewed within a week of submission. Additional details and the application portal can be found here (note that the application portal can be accessed using the “Apply Now” button).
On April 30, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) released a new funding opportunity to provide expedited funding mechanisms for research on SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19. The “Emergency Awards: Rapid Investigation of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19” opportunity is available through two mechanisms, the Research Project Grant (R01) and the Exploratory/Developmental Grant (R21). Areas of high priority include, but are not limited to, studies to understand critical aspects of viral infection/replication, studies to understand critical aspects of viral transmission, development and testing of SARS-CoV-2 therapeutic candidates, and studies to inform the development of vaccination strategies for at-risk populations.” Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis, beginning on 04/30/2020 and both grant opportunities expire on 04/30/2021. Please see additional details in the full funding opportunity announcements listed below.
Emergency Awards: Rapid Investigation of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 :
This information was prepared by Lewis-Burke Associates and curated by Shandrea Stallworth, Early Career Representative on ASPB’s Science Policy Committee. Information about ASPB’s response to COVID-19 can be found here.
If you are interested in helping the effort to combat the spread of COVID-19, FEMA has established a website (https://www.fema.gov/coronavirus/how-to-help) with more information.