May 26, 2020
Even as most states have begun reopening from the lockdowns necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, “We cannot forget that it is out there,” CEO Willy Walker said on Walker & Dunlop’s latest webcast. “And it is likely to be out there for years, if not decades to come.”
The May 20 webcast explored the search for a vaccine to the virus that to date has infected some 1.6 million Americans. Walker’s guest was Dr. Margaret (Peggy) Hamburg, the former Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and current Foreign Secretary at the National Academy of Medicine.
In an hour-long conversation that shed light on the considerations and procedures for developing a vaccine, Hamburg also stressed the importance of health infrastructure. “We will be better at day-to-day responding to routine problems of public health and medicine if we strengthen our public health capabilities,” she said.
“We will be better off as a nation in terms of the health of people, the health of our communities, the health of our healthcare system and the health of our economy if we really shore up our investments in life sciences research and biomedical product development,” Hamburg added.
Recalling the 1984 assertion of Margaret Heckler, the then-Secretary of Health and Human Services, that an AIDS vaccine would be ready for testing by 1986—such a vaccine still hasn’t come to light—Hamburg warned against overpromising. She said it seemed like “wishful thinking” to expect a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of 2020, and warned that a winding-down of the pandemic would be bumpy rather than a glide path.
“It makes me nervous in the age of COVID-19 to hear some of the promises being made about when we’ll have a vaccine when we really don’t know, because we have to let the science drive the decision-making,” Hamburg said.
She added, though, that the life sciences sector today has tools at its disposal today that didn’t exist in the 1980s, and that progress on researching a COVID-19 vaccine has been remarkably fast, with some of the sector’s leading companies on the case.
In his opening remarks, Walker noted that his firm had awarded two multifamily investment sales within the past week, totaling $96 million. Although these deals would be all in a day’s work for Walker & Dunlop in an ordinary market, Walker noted they represented a remarkable turnaround in sentiment from a month prior, when concerns about a collapse of the economy were in the air.
Replays of the May 20 webcast are available by clicking here.
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