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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressional Valley Fever Task Force Co-Chair Congressman David Schweikert (AZ-06) alongside Task Force Co-Chair Congressman Kevin McCarthy (CA-23), Congressman Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01) and Congresswoman Karen Bass (CA-37) introduced the Finding Orphan-disease Remedies with Antifungal Research and Development (FORWARD) Act of 2021 (H.R. 5566), a bipartisan bill to support research initiatives to treat Valley Fever. This bill would work to confront the current gaps in science to detect, treat, and one-day eradicate Valley Fever, by establishing antifungal therapeutics and vaccine development.
“The FORWARD act brings much needed attention and support to the endemic fungi such as the cause of Valley fever, a public health disease so important to residents and visitors to the desert southwest. This year in Arizona, our data shows that for every four new diagnoses of COVID-19 an additional person with the same symptoms has Valley fever. While COVID-19 is very important now, Valley fever is an endemic problem year in and year out,” said Rep. Schweikert.
“For years, our community has worked to tackle Valley Fever head on. And though we have made progress, we have never forgotten the critical need to find effective treatments, a cure, and ultimately a vaccine. This week served as an important reminder of that need – high wind advisories in Kern County caused Valley Fever to be a greater-than-normal threat in our community given that strong winds are notorious for kicking up the fungal spores that cause Valley Fever, making cures and a vaccine all the more important” said Rep. McCarthy. “As we continue to recover from a global pandemic resulting from viral respiratory illness COVID-19, we must refocus our efforts to better address fungal lung diseases, such as Valley Fever, which can complicate COVID-19 response efforts. The FORWARD Act takes a robust approach to combating this disease by focusing on short-term, medium-term, and long-term solutions to develop new treatments, therapies, and a vaccine. I am thankful to Congressman Schweikert for his leadership on this issue over the years, and I look forward to continue working with him and our colleagues in Congress to finally stamp out Valley Fever.”
“Over the last decade, more and more Arizonans have fallen victim to Valley Fever, and we still know frustratingly little about how it can be effectively prevented. With over two-thirds of all Valley Fever cases coming from Arizona, I am pleased to co-lead the FORWARD Act to authorize additional NIH funding to study Valley Fever and similar fungal diseases and to improve the pipeline of treatments and vaccines to combat Valley Fever” said Rep. O’Halleran.
Leading Experts on Valley Fever Offered the Following Comments:
“The FORWARD act brings much needed attention and support to the endemic fungi, such as those that cause of Valley fever, a public health disease so important to residents and visitors to the desert southwest. This year in Arizona, our data shows that for every four new diagnoses of COVID-19, an additional person with the same symptoms has Valley fever. While COVID-19 is very important now, Valley fever is an endemic problem year in and year out,” said Dr. John Galgiani the Director of the Valley Fever Center for Excellence at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Tucson.
“Valley Fever continues to affect the lives of so many in our community. Our efforts to improve the care, treatment, and research of Valley Fever have been supported by many great leaders; each one bringing us closer to accomplishing our goals. We are grateful for Congressman McCarthy’s leadership and commitment to the FORWARD Act,” said Dr. Royce Johnson, Medical Director of the Valley Fever Institute at Kern Medical and Chief of Infectious Diseases at Kern Medical. “This legislation is a necessary step in our fight against Valley Fever. This new legislation provides an additional funding for research and adds antifungal development to the existing CARB-X program – helping facilitate the development of new drugs and bringing us closer to finding a cure.”
“As a patient, I know firsthand the damage Valley Fever inflicts on patients and their families. Congressman McCarthy provided me an opportunity to share directly with the FDA my patient experience and bring focus to the patient’s perspective and how we live with Valley Fever. The FORWARD Act supports our efforts by establishing a group that will include patients and their perspectives to help guide future research priorities,” said Rob Purdie, Patient & Program Development Coordinator at the Valley Fever Institute at Kern Medical
The FORWARD Act is designed to advance sustained efforts to combat Valley Fever in the short, medium, and long-term:
Short-Term: Immediately support and prioritize basic research for Valley Fever and other fungal diseases, authorize $20M annually through FY26 for National Institutes of Health (NIH) to enter into grants or contracts for vaccine/drug development, and create a federal working group to coordinate research efforts on fungal diseases;
Medium-Term: Streamline the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process to get new antifungal diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines approved for use in humans, as well as expand and codify a successful program, renamed the Combating Antimicrobial Resistance Biopharmaceutical Accelerator (CARB-X) Program in this legislation, to promote public-private partnerships to develop both antibacterial and antifungal diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines; and,
Long-Term: Encourage the development of a Valley Fever vaccine by extending expedited approval pathways for antifungal vaccines and directs the FDA to include Valley Fever in its priority review voucher program to further incentivize the development of new treatments, cures, and vaccines.
To stay up to date on Congressional efforts to address Valley Fever, please visit the Congressional Valley Fever Task Force website.
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