Pandemic Support for COVID-19 Research at North Carolina Universities & Oversight of Funding Allocations

| May 26, 2020

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Written by Brieanne Lyda-McDonald

 

The Pandemic Response Act (House Bill 1043) and the COVID-19 Recovery Act (Senate Bill 704) signed by Governor Roy Cooper on May 4  contain a multitude of allocations to support public health, health care, education, and many other pandemic-related needs. The allocations included $85 million to support COVID-19 research that will be distributed to several universities in the state:

 

  • $29 million - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for allocation to the North Carolina Policy Collaboratory
  • $20 million – Wake Forest University Health Services
  • $15 million – Duke University Human Vaccine Institute
  • $15 million - East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine
  • $6 million – Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine

 

UNC Collaboratory

House Bill 1043 – $29 million “for (i) the rapid development of a countermeasure of neutralizing antibodies for COVID-19 that can be used as soon as possible to both prevent infection, and for those infected, treat infection, (ii) bringing a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine to the public as soon as possible, (iii) community testing initiatives, and (iv) other research and activities related to monitoring, assessing, and addressing the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19. The Collaboratory shall facilitate among various entities best practices and strategies to maximize resources and achieve a comprehensive response to COVID-19. The Collaboratory may also assemble an advisory panel of representatives from various entities as necessary to discuss, review, and analyze progress towards meeting those goals and the use of available funds.”

The North Carolina Policy Collaboratory, established by the General Assembly in 2016, supports research related to environmental and natural resource management in the state and then helps to disseminate findings. With the aim of ensuring that “data-driven research is the basis for state legislation during the pandemic,” the Collaboratory will form an advisory group of administrators from UNC-Chapel Hill’s public health, medical, and business departments to identify opportunities to fund coronavirus research. A report on progress and use of funds is due to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services by no later than September 1, 2020.

 

Wake Forest University Health Services

House Bill 1043 – $20 million “to expand its COVID-19 study to include syndromic surveillance and representative sample antibody testing to provide policymakers and researchers with near real-time coronavirus prevalence, hospitalization, and fatality data.”

Wake Forest University Health Services has been working to track COVID-19 symptoms and test for the presence of antibodies across the population in real time. The funds allocated by the General Assembly will help them test 10,000 people across the 20-county service area for Wake Forest Baptist, 15,000 in 20 counties served by Atrium Health, and thousands more across the state using an at-home antibody test six times over the next year.

 

Duke University Human Vaccine Institute

House Bill 1043 – $15 million “to develop a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine that will be available to the public as soon as possible.”

The Duke University Human Vaccine Institute will use allocated funds to test the safety of COVID-19 vaccines and have an ongoing animal trial. Researchers at the Immunology Virology Quality Assessment Center at the Institute have also been playing a role in testing samples from Duke University Hospital and developing SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) assays for studies at Duke.

 

East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine

House Bill 1043 – $15 million “for (i) the rapid development of a countermeasure of neutralizing antibodies for COVID-19 that can be used as soon as possible to both prevent infection, and for those infected, treat infection, (ii) bringing a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine to the public as soon as possible, (iii) community testing initiatives, and (iv) other research and activities related to COVID-19.”

The ECU Brody School of Medicine funding allocations will allow for a variety of research efforts around COVID-19. A report on the progress of research activities conducted with the General Assembly funding allocations is due to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services by September.

In April, Governor Cooper announced a partnership between ECU Brody School of Medicine, UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke, and the North Carolina Division of Public Health to complete an in-depth study of the number of people infected with COVID-19, how many are asymptomatic, how many have recovered, and the impacts of the pandemic on physical and mental health, families, and the economy. ECU will focus on Cabarrus, Chatham, and Pitt counties. The study will last at least six months and will include monthly blood samples collected at health departments, nasal swabs collected at home, and an online survey twice per month.

 

Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine

House Bill 1043 – $6 million “for a community- and rural-focused primary care workforce response to COVID-19, including, but not limited to, (i) supporting community testing initiatives, (ii) providing treatment in community-based health care settings, (iii) monitoring rural populations, (iv) educating health professionals on best practices for a pandemic response, and (v) supporting Page 12 Session Law 2020-4 House Bill 1043 rural communities through primary care.”

The General Assembly allocated these funds for the purpose of creating a testing and treatment initiative focused specifically on rural populations in North Carolina. As with the UNC Collaboratory and ECU funds, a report on progress and use of funds is due to the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services by September.

 

 

Oversight of Funding Allocations

Independent of the research funding, the General Assembly’s COVID-19 legislation allocated $2 million for the creation of a temporary Pandemic Recovery Office as part of the Office of State Budget and Management. The intent of the office is to “oversee and coordinate funds made available under COVID-19 Recovery Legislation. This Office shall also provide technical assistance and ensure coordination of federal funds received by State agencies and local governments and ensure proper reporting and accounting of all funds.” The office is meant to expire in one year.