Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman and Congressional Valley Fever Task Force Co-Chair Kevin McCarthy, U.S. Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ), Congressman and Congressional Valley Fever Task Force Co-Chair David Schweikert (AZ-06), Congresswoman Karen Bass (CA-37), Congressman Greg Stanton (AZ-09), and U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), introduced H.R. 2858 and S. 1567, the Finding Orphan-disease Remedies with Antifungal Research and Development (FORWARD) Act. This legislation would address the short-term, medium-term, and long-term challenges to detecting, treating, and eventually eradicating Valley Fever.
“Valley Fever is a serious health problem that has affected our community for years. Since coming to Congress, I have worked with my colleagues to bring more national awareness to this infectious disease by hosting seminars and roundtables with local community leaders, doctors, and members of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.
“The FORWARD Act takes a comprehensive approach to combating Valley Fever, focusing on short-term, medium-term, and long-term strategies to increase public awareness of this disease while enhancing and promoting the development of novel treatments and a vaccine. I am grateful to my colleagues for joining me in this effort and for their dedication to stamping out Valley Fever. I want to especially thank my good friend Senator McSally for working together with me and introducing the companion bill in the Senate, and my good friend and Representative Schweikert for his leadership and steadfast dedication to this issue throughout the years. I hope this bill will bring a continued and much-needed focus to combat Valley Fever,” said Rep. McCarthy.
“Valley fever poses a critical health risk in Arizona, with nearly two-thirds of all cases nationwide occurring in our state. The FORWARD Act aids in research, treatment, and most importantly, prevention of Valley Fever to deliver assistance to our communities in need. We need to take this seriously and ensure that resources are invested in the fight against this disease,” said Senator McSally.
“Every year, our community sees increased rates of Valley Fever. This legislation pushes for a breakthrough in research, it also introduces the first blockchain pilot program for collecting data for fungal diseases. As scientists are getting closer to a cure for valley fever [soon a vaccination for our pets], I look forward to seeing how the critical resources provided in this legislation will positively impact the southwest. We are extremely hopeful that a cure is in our near future,” said Rep. Schweikert.
“I’m proud to join my colleagues on this bipartisan effort to combat Valley Fever. The impact this disease has had on communities in Southern California and the greater Southwest region of the country will be significantly mitigated by advancing treatment and vaccine development. As a former health professional, I’ve seen lives saved by scientific research, which is why I hope Congress can come together to pass this good piece of legislation,” said Rep. Bass.
“No family wants to learn a loved one has been infected with Valley Fever and that there is no known cure—but it’s a reality that nearly 7,000 Arizonans faced in 2017. That number is on the rise, but we can do something about it. This is a common-sense, bipartisan bill that will make it a priority to find a cure and develop a vaccine,” said Rep. Stanton.
Additionally, leading Valley Fever researchers, health professionals, and patient advocates are in support of the FORWARD Act.
“Congressman Kevin McCarthy continues to be a tireless champion in the fight against Valley Fever. His efforts continue to increase awareness of Valley Fever and bring critical funding to Kern County - where it is needed the most. As Medical Director for the Valley Fever Institute at Kern Medical, I am honored to lead our clinical team as we continue our mission to increase education and awareness for the public, patients and health care providers; provide the best patient care available and promote research that includes epidemiology, clinical drug development, prevention, immunology and immunizations. I fully support the FORWARD Act and know this is a crucial step forward in combating Valley Fever.” – Dr. Royce Johnson, Medical Director of the Kern Medical Valley Fever Institute and Chief of Infectious Diseases at Kern Medical
“For the Americans at risk, Valley fever is every bit the biothreat that polio was before there was a polio vaccine. Even though regional, the population at risk for Valley fever is growing and the number of infections is on the increase. The FORWARD Act is a step towards addressing this major regional public health problem for the people who live or visit the Southwest. At the University of Arizona Valley Fever Center for Excellence, there are both potential cures and preventative vaccines ready for testing if only the funding for these breakthroughs was available. The FORWARD Act will help to produce the progress we need.” - Dr. John Galgiani, Director, University of Arizona Valley Fever Center for Excellence
“As someone who has been living with the most serious form of Valley Fever for more than seven years, I have seen the damage this disease does to patients and their families. I have also seen the amazing passion of my doctors at the Valley Fever Institute and other doctors and researchers. New research, drugs and vaccines are desperately needed to mitigate the effects of this disease. The bipartisan effort of the House and Senate in introducing these sister bills offers a light at the end of a very long and often dark tunnel for patients and their families dealing with Valley Fever.” - Rob Purdie, Patient and Program Development Coordinator at the Valley Fever Institute
The FORWARD Act is designed to advance sustained efforts to combat Valley Fever in the short, medium, and long-term. Specifically, the FORWARD Act would in the:
- Short-Term: Immediately support and prioritize basic research for Valley Fever and other fungal diseases; establish a blockchain pilot program so that medical researchers can more easily access clinical data for research while preserving patient privacy; and create a Federal working group to coordinate research efforts on Valley Fever and fungal diseases;
- Medium-Term: Streamline the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval process to establish new antifungal diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines approved for use in humans; and create a program – based off-of the successful public-private partnership CARB-X program – that promotes public-private development of antifungal diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines; and,
- Long-Term: Promote and incentivize the development of a Valley Fever vaccine by extending expedited approval pathways for antifungal vaccines at FDA; and create an FDA priority review voucher program for endemic orphan fungal diseases to further incentivize the development of new treatments, cures, and vaccines for diseases, such as Valley Fever.