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Statement from Milken Institute Chairman Michael Milken

March 15, 2020

The Milken Institute is engaged in efforts to help educate, inform, and support policymakers and businesses to:

  • Mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

  • Expedite the discovery and rollout of tests/treatments/cures.

  • Strategize on economic and policy levers to help companies weather the current conditions.

Across the Organization, We Are Focused on Six Areas: Education, Prevention, Treatment, Care, Cures, and Financial as We:

Activate our advisory boards and networks, and leverage our media relationships and social media platforms to disseminate accurate information.

Connect private industry, schools of public health, government agencies and policymakers to expedite advances in treatments and address diagnostic, staffing and device shortages.

Provide policy recommendations to support businesses as they lead virtual workforces, care for their employees and their employees' families, and access the capital they need to operate.

Over the next several weeks, we will be convening a series of conference calls for all supporters and friends of MI who are looking for perspective as to the latest scientific thinking and market implications of the coronavirus outbreak. We will include content experts from a number of fields as well as internal thought leaders.

A more specific review of the efforts underway at each of our Centers is detailed below. 


FasterCures Advisory Board Response Team

We have activated the FasterCures Advisory Board to be part of our media response to the coronavirus. We have three former FDA commissioners on our board and critical disease and biopharma experts. Scott Gottlieb has been very active on his social media and other platforms talking about the virus. On our shortlist for MI conference calls and media inquiries in addition to Scott are Peggy Hamburg, Mark McClellan, and David Baltimore.

Biopharmaceutical Vaccine and Cure Development Clearinghouse

FasterCures has over 20 leading biopharmaceutical companies and business leaders on our Business Council. We have conducted proactive outreach to that community to identify ways to speed up the development of treatments and cures either through vaccine development or repurposing drugs. Companies are reaching out to share their efforts, and we are also going to conduct regular calls to hear updates and address any immediate policy barriers that may impede progress towards a cure.

Disease Philanthropy Best Practice Community

FasterCures has 22 of the most prominent disease foundations and philanthropies as part of our non-profit council. We have engaged that community to share their experiences with their patient populations in addressing COVID-19 and ensure they receive the best treatment and care. These are the most vulnerable populations suffering from underlying health conditions and already need the most complex care. FasterCures will gather and disseminate best practices to ensure that groups have the most critical information to be well protected from acquiring the coronavirus and to get the best care if they do contract it. 

Center for the Future of Aging (CFA)

Older adults and those with compromised health are particularly vulnerable. CFA is responding to media questions on COVID-19/aging populations and sharing information and advice from credible public health sources. Paul Irving, Nora Super, and several members of the CFA staff have been widely quoted, giving us a chance to promote science and evidence-based solutions and warn against speculative, untested, and unproven ideas. 

Center for Public Health (CPH)

Undertaking Initiatives Designed to Help "Flatten the Curve" by:
  1. Coordinating with members of the CPH Advisory Board and other schools of public health on ways to slow the rate of infection so we can flatten the infection curve and move us to the plateau phase.

  2. Communicating with CDC on ways to help advance and disseminate accurate information and updates.

  3. Speaking with health companies on how to manage and lead a virtual workplace – this is new territory for most.

  4. Working with the CEORT on Cancer and the effort to coordinate with a team from Welcome Trust and WHO on physical and human infrastructure needs-we have enormous hospital bed capacity and medical professional gaps.

  5. Speaking with the DC Government and the state of Maryland on ways to provide food and nutrition to the vulnerable children and seniors who move out of schools and senior nursing facilities. 

Feeding Change Initiative

Heightened Calls for Plant-Based Diets

This global virus, like so many recent viruses, is zoonotic, meaning it was transmitted from animals to people. The CDC has said that three out of four emerging infectious diseases in people come from animals. This, of course, leads to increased calls to review our food system and our reliance on animal proteins.

What Can We Do?

The Milken Institute has already been leading a conversation about plant-based diets through Feeding Change. In this time without in-person events, we can host calls and write pieces of thought leadership

Prevention Through Diet

We know that healthy food is critical to a strong immune system. Some foods boost immunity and diets that impair immune function. At the Milken Institute, we've long talked about food as medicine. We know that food can have just as much, if not more, of an impact on certain diseases than some drugs.

What Can We Do?

With citizens wondering what they can do to protect themselves best, we can be a resource on healthy, immune-promoting diets.

Food Access

Already nearly one billion people around the globe are food insecure. There are fears that COVID-19 will grow that number exponentially as the economic fallout continues.

What Can We Do?

Work with funders, foundations, and philanthropists to connect them to the best food access opportunities.

Food Industry Innovation and Opportunity

Interestingly, some parts of the food industry (particularly grocers) are seeing unprecedented revenue as populations stock up on food, while other parts of the industry (particularly foodservice and restaurants) will be decimated.

At the same time, the need for shelf-stable foods that are healthful has risen. Over the past decade, public health advocates have encouraged Americans to choose fresh food more often. But fresh food is perishable, and during times of quarantine, we see the need for shelf-stable food. We need to ensure that this food is improving health and not impairing it.

What Can We Do?

Through Feeding Change, we've worked with scientists, investors, and companies big and small on innovation. Without the ability to convene in person, perhaps we can come up with novel ways to keep this community connected—teleconferences, publications, Q&A Centers, etc. 

Center for Regional Economics

Capital access for small businesses is a significant issue—both loans to get through the hard times now and access to being able to grow and recover after the crisis subsides.

Educating and Informing Policymakers–Particularly in California

A letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom was sent. The Governor included several elements of our recommendations in a press release he sent out a couple of hours later. Some of these recommendations are below.

Public School Closures

The issue with public schools closing is a major one both of access to food and childcare. Many poor parents rely not only on school food programs for multiple meals each day but also to serve as a source of child care so they can go to work. If the students are at home, they have a major problem.

Housing and Homelessness

Housing and homelessness are a significant issue for us. We emphasized the fact that food and treatment for the homeless will be a significant issue, and that they may not be aware of what resources are available. We emphasized the need to get the proper equipment to healthcare workers because California has a major shortfall in qualified medical professionals, meaning that even if workers do get exposed, they will need to keep coming to work.

Funding County and Local Governments

We also focused on the fact that many county and local governments would lack the needed funding or expertise to execute any effective mitigation (which, not containment, is the goal), and that the Governor would need to coordinate more directly with county and local leaders to provide needed expertise, money, and services. These observations very well apply to other states, but we have a better relationship with California, of course.

In addition, we are Working to Educate and Advise:

Governors' Offices in the design of PSA campaigns to inform the public about available resources and coordinate regional responses; potential deployment of National Guard units; and coordination with FEMA to promote an immediate increase in the production and distribution of test kits.

State Legislatures to Consider and Vote on Funding Proposals for:

Regional medical response teams and fever clinics, direct subsidies to families with children in public schools to replace the value of school lunch programs, extension of paid leave to parents now responsible for child care or caring for sick family members at home, grants for small businesses to cover fixed operating costs (utilities, insurance, and payroll) up to 60% of revenue losses over the next two months, and relief for homeless populations. 

Center for Financial Markets (CFM)

Individuals and businesses in low- and moderate-income communities will disproportionately feel the negative economic shock from the coronavirus. 

CFM has Been Engaged in Research and Outreach in Several Areas, Including:
  1. Working with policymakers and market participants to develop solutions to allow low- to moderate-income people to stay in their homes during any temporary downturn.

  2. Working with the administration and members of Congress to ensure that any economic stimulus package includes targeted assistance to low- and moderate-income individuals and businesses.

  3. As an example, a legislative fix to the Opportunity Zone (OZ) provision of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to allow investments in minority depository institutions (MDIs) and community development financial institutions (CDFI) funds to be eligible Qualified Opportunity Fund (QOF) investments.

  4. MI CFM research shows that MDIs and CDFIs are an efficient mechanism to allocate capital to households and job-creating businesses in these communities. For example, a $1 investment into a CDFI will typically yield $10 of new lending and investment into distressed communities. 

Center for Strategic Philanthropy

Philanthropic capital that is nimble, high-risk, and informed by communities is an essential element of society's response to a public health emergency like COVID-19. It can not only result in short-term mitigation—funding community resources, reducing the impact of lost wages on low-income individuals and families, facilitating the delivery of medical supplies—but advance scientific research into prevention, diagnosis, and treatment; while strengthening the nonprofit ecosystem to ensure efficient delivery of services.

By leveraging its experience in identifying high-impact giving opportunities, the Center for Strategic Philanthropy is leading an effort to advise donors on channeling their philanthropy in a way that accelerates the response, rebuilds communities, and prevents similar crises at a local and global level. 

Asia Center

Our Asia Center is taking advantage of its deep relationships across the region, particularly in Singapore where we are based, to learn about the policies that have been most effective in Singapore and Taiwan for mitigating the spread and severity of COVID-19. Our goal is to be able to identify insights and share what we learn with other policymakers across the globe as they implement plans. 

In Closing

We look forward to continuing to leverage our extensive platform and working with our partners and supporters, private industry, government entities and policymakers, to help resolve the many issues presented by COVID-19.

—Michael Milken