Jul 05, 2022

Governor Newsom and Californians Against Pandemics Reach Agreement - Announce First in Nation Effort on Research and Technology to Prevent Pandemics

Agreement Replaces Statewide Ballot Measure With Expansion of California Office of Precision Medicine to Include Focus on Pandemic Prevention

SACRAMENTO, CA - Today, Governor Newsom reached an agreement with the proponents of a ballot measure which proposed to fund 10 years of California-based scientific research to prevent future pandemics via a small tax on personal incomes over $5 million per year. 

With the agreement, the proponents agree to withdraw the ballot measure, while the Governor agrees to expand the scope of the California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine to include a focus on pandemic prevention, including building up statewide expertise and seeking funding from private, public, and academic sources, a move that will make California the first state in the nation to take a statewide focus on preventing pandemics through novel technologies.

“California aims to set a new standard for pandemic preparedness and prevention, ensuring a safer and healthier future for all residents,” said CalHHS Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly. “This move underscores California's commitment to advancing public health through innovation.

COVID-19 devastated California and the world, with over 100,000 Californians losing their lives and state economic losses of a staggering $1.3 trillion. California’s classrooms and public university system stood empty, restaurants and hotels were shuttered, and ports saw their volume slow to a trickle. As a result, California’s unemployment more than doubled, with the hardest hit being those in the service & transportation industries, those making minimum wage, and teachers, massively exacerbating inequality and sparking a mental health crisis.

“One of the ways California can honor the lives lost in the last pandemic and remember the tremendous costs to our citizens and our economy is by leading the world in advancing the science we need to prevent the next pandemic from ever occurring – we owe it to our children to prepare for the next pandemic now,” said Henderson, Co-Founder, CEO, and Chief Data Scientist of CovidActNow, a US-based non-profit organization providing modeling and data infrastructure to help track and stop the spread of COVID-19, and a proponent of the measure. “I have faith that this new focus on pandemic prevention will help California prevent the future loss of life and livelihood, while also preventing large scale shutdowns.”

Dr. Steve Luby, Director of Research at the Stanford Center for Innovation in Global Health and globally renowned expert in pandemic prevention applauded the leadership of Henderson and Governor Newsom saying, “There are very few actions we can take in this world that could result in alleviating more suffering and saving more lives than preventing another global pandemic - I am glad to see Governor Newsom and the State of California pick up that torch to help Californians and all of humanity.”

“California is the home of biotechnology innovation and know-how, and if we are willing to make investments now,  cheaper and better diagnostics will not only improve health care for all Californians, but also will allow us to anticipate, detect, and respond to outbreaks before they become pandemics,” said Dr. Joe DeRisi, PhD., President of the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub San Francisco, and Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at UCSF.

“In the face of our tough budgetary environment - which in some ways is directly attributable to the economic devastation from the COVID-19 pandemic - this is the first step towards our goal of preventing pandemics. We must coordinate the many leading California scientists working on this important issue, and seek the funding those scientists need from not just state sources, but federal and international agencies, public and private universities, businesses, and the philanthropic community,” said Henderson. “I commend the Newsom administration for pledging to continue this important work.”