The start of the new administration and new Congress presents a unique opportunity to come together to galvanize our nation’s scientific and entrepreneurial capacity, to mobilize new waves of homegrown innovation and American ingenuity, and to end the pandemic and get more Americans back to work.
But there’s no time to waste—and how we approach the next 100 days will be essential to ending the pandemic and rebuilding the economy in a way that’s more resilient, more dynamic, and more inclusive.
On January 27, 2021, BIO released 100 Days of Innovation, a blueprint for the public and private sector to work together over the next 100 (or so) days.
Here are six priorities:
1. Ensure a speedy transition and an expedited Senate confirmation process for agency leadership critical to advancing public health, nutrition, and environmental goals.
In addition to pledging to work with the Biden/Harris administration to advance truth and scientific innovation, BIO has called for quick confirmation of key appointees, including Tom Vilsack for Agriculture secretary and Katherine Tai for U.S. Trade Representative.
2. Reengage as a leader on the world stage, including rejoining the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Paris Climate Accords.
Check! The Biden administration recommitted to WHO and the Paris Climate Accords on Day 1, and BIO applauded the decision to join two global vaccine efforts, the COVAX Facility and ACT Accelerator.
3. Develop and approve more vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics to prevent and treat COVID-19.
The biotechnology industry has undertaken a monumental campaign with unprecedented speed and collaboration to combat COVID-19.
Just one year after the world’s first lockdown, the industry has launched more than 800 R&D programs targeting the coronavirus—with U.S.-based companies leading this innovation.
To continue this trajectory, we need more funding for R&D and procurement, as well as to encourage more public-private partnerships and private investment through sound policy, among other recommendations.
4. Promote robust and equitable patient access to COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.
As we’ve explained, we cannot defeat this crisis without equitable access to science—both in the United States and around the world.
We must ensure access to and coverage of COVID-related vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics, as well as develop a national plan to accelerate distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccines in an equitable manner.
We need a coordinated and well-funded national campaign to build vaccine confidence and facilitate vaccination, particularly in minority communities and among essential workers. (BIO’s leading the way with COVIDVaccineFacts.org.)
Given COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on communities of color, we also need inclusion of minority groups in clinical trials—for COVID-19 and beyond.
5. Better prepare for future infectious disease outbreaks.
Around 60% of viruses found in humans originated in animals—including SARS-CoV-2, which scientists believe originated in bats.
This is why we need investment in emerging infectious disease preparedness and R&D. BIO suggests tax incentives for private investment in early-stage clinical R&D of medical countermeasures, and adequate funding and resources for agencies engaged in biodefense and emergency preparedness (including ASPR, BARDA, USDA, and the CDC).
We likewise need a “One Health” approach across the government that recognizes the interrelationship between human, animal, and environmental health.
Other recommendations focus on manufacturing and emergency supplies, workforce training, ensuring a clear regulatory pathway, and infrastructure—read all six.
LISTEN: The EcoHealth Alliance researches emerging zoonotic diseases—including coronaviruses in bats. EcoHealth Alliance EVP Dr. William Karesh and Policy Adviser Catherine Machalaba joined the I AM BIO Podcast to discuss how we can prepare for and prevent the next zoonotic disease pandemic.
6. Drive economic revival and resiliency through adoption of advanced biotechnology solutions.
Biotechnology is developing breakthrough solutions to climate change and nutrition—from low-carbon fuels to biobased plastics and chemicals to gene editing techniques that allow us to ensure our plant and animal food sources are more sustainable and resilient in the face of climate threats.
But there are a few things we need—like streamlined and expedited regulatory pathways for new technology, support for scaling up biorefineries and biobased manufacturing, and incentives for adoption.
The next steps
“Science—and scientific solutions—are the way out of this pandemic and developing solutions for climate change,” said BIO President and CEO Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath.
“We remain committed to ushering in new waves of biomedical innovation and working with federal, state, and local partners to defeat the coronavirus and position ourselves for a stronger and more resilient future,” she concluded.
We’ll be reviewing our progress and next steps during the BIO Digital Convention in June.