“Syringe and Vaccine” by NIAID is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Niskanen Center is proud to support the reintroduction of the Taxpayer Research and Coronavirus Knowledge (TRACK) Act, introduced in the House by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) along with 40 other cosponsors and in the Senate by Senators Mike Braun (R-IN) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

Like the bill introduced in the previous Congress, the TRACK Act requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to create a user-friendly, searchable database of all patents and government support to entities involved in the research and development of COVID-related drugs and medical devices. This would include both direct financial support, the use of government facilities and resources, along with R&D tax credits and orphan drug tax credits. Additionally, the bill would require disclosinginformation related to manufacturing capacity and the price of relevant technologies.

“Operation Warp Speed is the greatest focused effort of private and public entities working together to achieve the common goal of radically expanding technological capabilities of the United States and the rest of the world since the Space Race” said Daniel Takash, regulatory policy fellow at the Niskanen Center and manager of the Captured Economy Project. “Indeed, while the NIH has spent significant sums of money researching coronaviruses over the past decades laying the groundwork for this technological achievement, the speed at which we have gone from hard lockdowns to vaccinating Americans at a breakneck pace is astounding.”

The current pandemic has demonstrated that while some impediments to technological advancement and the production of tools needed to combat COVID-19 exist due to current laws making technology transfer more difficult, the story is a bit more complicated. Absent these restrictions there would still be a clear need for the government to take affirmative steps to promote research, technology sharing, and commit to purchasing large quantities of vaccines to bring them to those waiting to be vaccinated.

With the TRACK Act, the information necessary to fully analyze how the success of the U.S. government and private firms’ ongoing efforts to develop, produce, and distribute vaccines will be available for such analysis. While we hope we never see such a pandemic again, the knowledge made available by the TRACK Act will serve as an invaluable reference and road map going forward should future crises require the full efforts of the public and private sectors.