DOD looks to industry for anti-COVID-19 prototypes

The Defense Department is asking industry for prototype solutions to combat the novel coronavirus disease and other emerging bio-threats.

NOTE: This article first appeared on FCW.com.

The Defense Department is looking for prototype solutions to combat the novel coronavirus disease and other emerging biothreats.

DOD is hoping to tap industry and academia for potential capabilities that will speed the development of technologies and methods that can prevent, contain, treat and detect the exposure of COVID-19 and other emerging threats, according to a March 15 contracting notice issued by the U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity.

The presolicitation notice was made in partnership with the Army and the Medical Technology Enterprise Consortium (MTEC), which has members consisting of consulting firms like Booz Allen Hamilton, Deloitte and CACI to universities and tech companies.

Interested parties are asked to submit white papers for solutions, including diagnostic tools, prophylactics or therapeutics, or disease predictive modeling, patient monitoring systems, that can be deployed by Dec. 31.

DOD’s request for white papers comes in anticipation of future requests for proposals that could be worth tens of millions of dollars as the U.S. and countries worldwide work to test, treat and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The presolicitation is also part of the Defense Department’s multipronged coronavirus response effort.

On the acquisition front, DOD is working with industry leaders to get feedback and ideas on how to handle the pandemic. Lt. Col. Mike Andrews, department spokesman, told reporters via email that acquisition head Ellen Lord held the first of what is expected to be daily phone calls with the defense industrial base on COVID-19.

"The department remains fully engaged with the defense industrial base on all programs, and stands ready to respond when needed," Andrews wrote, adding the call included the Jennifer Santos, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for industrial policy, the Defense Contracting Management Agency, Defense Logistics Agency and Defense Pricing and Contracting.

However, critics worry that the government waited too late to bring in private-sector resources to increase testing abilities, which could have "disastrous" consequences, Bloomberg reported.

But DOD has steadily increased its efforts, mobilizing National Guard units across the country and most recently pledging to deploy 2,000 ventilators and 5 million respiratory masks to the Department of Health and Human Services to aid in the country’s response, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters during a March 17 briefing.

DOD components are also working on various medical efforts. Esper said researchers at Fort Detrick, a U.S. Army Medical Command installation in Maryland, expect a vaccine to be developed in 12 to 18 months, and that DOD would be willing to test and evaluate any solutions from industry that come sooner.

Additionally, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is also working on an antigen that would help warfighters stave off infection if exposed to COVID-19 without being vaccinated, as Defense One reported.

The deadline for submission is April 15 for the Army-MTEC presolicitation.

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