AUTM Advocacy Update

COVID-19: A Challenge Like No Other

By Mike Waring

April 22, 2020
Nothing short of a world war has ever achieved the complete domination of our national agenda than the current challenges we face with the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Congress, the White House and every federal agency have had their total focus shifted to dealing with both the health care and economic fallout of the current COVID-19 pandemic. And with both members of the House and Senate sequestered back home for the near future, their time and attention will be completely on how they can help the country, their districts and states weather the storm.
Universities are dealing with the virus on many levels. Research labs have been shuttered from coast to coast. Graduate students, faculty and postdocs have had to suspend their work. University hospitals are both treating large numbers of patients and also trying to help work on potential cures. And for millions of college students, lessons are all online to fill the void of no in-person classroom teaching.
Congress has so far passed three COVID-19 relief bills. The most recent – the CARES Act – included additional funds for research agencies, as well as some funding to help both colleges and their students during this pandemic. But it is clear that that legislation was only a small down payment on what universities and other sectors of the economy will need to ride things out.
Last week, university associations developed new asks for Congress to fund – and to fund soon. They include another $26 billion to help research agencies support the research enterprise on campuses and in labs nationwide. It is estimated that $1.5 billion is spent every week to support research during normal times – and these are anything but normal. Universities and colleges also seek another $47 billion to help both the institutions themselves as well as students. The ask is large – but the need is larger and growing.
As in all things, AUTM continues to collaborate with the other higher ed associations to push for support of important legislation and regulatory relief. The recent AUTM Licensing Guidelines about how to handle IP and licensing of COVID-related discoveries is one such example of that collaboration.

In the aftermath of 9/11, President George W. Bush said “the resolve of our great nation is being tested. But make no mistake, we will show the world that we will pass the test.” COVID-19 is testing all our resolves – and universities, their researchers and their tech transfer offices all have an important role to play in helping our nation and the world pass this current test.