March 18, 2021

Rep. Mike Levin Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Coordinate Pandemic Drug Research

Washington, D.C. – Today, Rep. Mike Levin (D-CA) and Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-GA) introduced the Saving Us from Pandemic Era Resistance by Building a Unified Global Strategy (SUPER BUGS) Act. The bipartisan bill would help prepare for future pandemics by directing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in consultation with the Department of State, to enter into agreements with foreign countries to help develop and commercialize new antimicrobial drugs.

Antimicrobials, including antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals and antiparasitics, are therapeutics used to prevent and treat infections, but with the increase of drug resistance, antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines are becoming ineffective to treating infections. This rapid global spread of bacteria resistant to several drugs, which are considered “superbugs,” is making infections increasingly difficult to cure with existing antimicrobial remedies.

“The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the critical importance of preparation to fight widespread infectious diseases, such as those resistant to antibiotics,” said Rep. Levin. “With our current lack of antimicrobial research and development, we are at risk of seeing a dangerous decrease in our ability to contain infectious disease threats. It’s imperative that we take immediate action in order to prevent another global pandemic.”

“This past year has clearly demonstrated the health and economic costs of failing to prepare for a pandemic,” said Rep. Ferguson. “The United States needs to take swift and decisive steps to improve our pandemic readiness. One emerging health threat – the growing rates of infections that antibiotics cannot cure – could become the next pandemic if we fail to prepare. We also need other countries and the international community to do their part.  That is why I am proud to join Congressman Mike Levin in introducing the SUPER BUGS Act to encourage the development of a strategy for collaboration with our partners. We must better support pandemic preparedness efforts to get ahead of a potential crisis before it’s too late.”

“Preventing infectious diseases from becoming a pandemic starts with preparedness. Unlike the unexpected global threat of COVID-19, bacterial resistance to antibiotics is an increasing public health crisis we can see coming. If the U.S. is to be successful in preventing pandemics from reaching our shores, we will need the global community to do its part. We are grateful to the sponsors for introducing this bill and look forward to working with them on ways to enhance the legislation.” - Ken Thorpe, Chairman, Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease; Advisory Board, Partnership to Fight Infectious Disease

Each year in the United States, at least 2.8 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, and more than 35,000 of them die from these infections. This resistance has been further exacerbated under the COVID-19 pandemic. Antimicrobial drugs are intended for short-term use, making the development of new ones less attractive to drug developers. The bill aims to increase global research and development of new drugs such as antibiotics for drug-resistant bacteria through parallel investments with other countries.

The SUPER BUGS Act would support two of the five goals in the U.S. National Strategy for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria (CARB), which are:

  • Accelerating basic and applied research and development for new antibiotics, other therapeutics, and vaccines;
  • Improving international collaboration and capacities for antibiotic-resistance prevention, surveillance, control, and antibiotic research and development.

In the 116th Congress, Rep. Levin introduced the Biomedical Innovation Expansion Act to provide the National Institutes of Health with more than $1.6 billion towards combating antimicrobial and antibiotic resistance, which the World Health Organization warns is one of the top ten threats to global health.