Zika Vaccine Developer Would Get Tax Credit Under House Bill

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By Jeannie Baumann

Feb. 16 — Drug companies that develop a Zika virus vaccine could be eligible for a tax credit under a slate of bills introduced in the House Feb. 12 designed to reduce the spread of the mosquito-borne virus.

Rep. Curt Clawson (R-Fla.) said he introduced a three-part legislative package on Zika to combat a virus that has spread to more than 30 nations throughout the Americas as a multipronged approach to prevent Zika infection, to ensure that the disease doesn't become prevalent in the U.S. and to ensure that localities are prepared to deal with any instances of outbreak as they arise. The White House has requested $1.8 billion in emergency funds to fight the disease .

“The explosive spread of this mosquito-borne virus, exacerbated by a lack of vaccines and reliable diagnostic tests, must be curbed utilizing every tool at our disposal in a coordinated international response,” Clawson said in a Feb. 12 statement. “The Zika virus is sneaking up on us and we’re not paying enough attention. If we deal with it prior to an outbreak we will be much better off.”

The lawmaker said that his district in southwest Florida’s Gulf Coast is “highly susceptible” to an outbreak, especially because the mosquito that is the main carrier of the virus is widely found in Florida.

The three bills introduced by Clawson are:

  • H.R. 4561: a bill that would authorize the use of Ebola funds for Zika response and preparedness;
  • H.R. 4562: a bill to reauthorize a $200 million-a-year grant program for five years to fight against mosquito-borne diseases, allowing states to use it in mosquito control programs to conduct assessments and to prevent and control mosquito-borne diseases; and
  • H.R. 4563: bill to provide a 10 percent tax credit for qualified research and development costs incurred by any company developing a vaccine for the Zika virus.
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    Similar legislation to repurpose the emergency funding provided last year for Ebola already have been introduced by other members in the House (H.R. 4446) and the Senate (S. 2518) . While he acknowledged that “the funds could still be used for Ebola as necessary,” he said in a Feb. 12 statement that “this bill would expand the availability of the funds to also be used in the fight against Zika.” Key public health leaders indicated in recent testimony before the Senate that re-appropriating Ebola dollars for Zika won't work because they haven't finished their work in Ebola and all that money has been obligated .

    Both H.R. 4561 and H.R. 4562 have been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee; H.R. 4563, which would provide the tax credit, has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.

    To contact the reporter on this story: Jeannie Baumann in Washington at jbaumann@bna.com

    To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nancy Simmons at nsimmons@bna.com

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