The biotech innovator trying to treat COVID-19 cytokine storms

June 22, 2020
We start the week with some news to make you feel good: a new episode of the I AM BIO Podcast features a young biotech innovator whose entire family was on the frontlines of the pandemic, and there’s more support for legislation that would advance biofuels R&D. Here…

We start the week with some news to make you feel good: a new episode of the I AM BIO Podcast features a young biotech innovator whose entire family was on the frontlines of the pandemic, and there’s more support for legislation that would advance biofuels R&D. Here are around 650 words, 3 minutes, 15 seconds.

Last call! Today, the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy will hold a webinar on manufacturing capacity for COVID-19 therapeutics, featuring BIO's own Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath. Click here to register.

Meet the biotech innovator trying to treat COVID-19 cytokine storms

In today’s episode of the I AM BIO Podcast, host Jim Greenwood chats with a young biotech innovator working on treatment to stop one of the major causes of death from COVID-19—which affected almost every member of his family. 

Meet Vivek Ramaswamy. He’s the 34-year-old CEO of Roivant Sciences, a biopharma working on a therapeutic to treat the COVID-19 cytokine storm (among many other drugs) and member of Ohio’s coronavirus task force. 

The pandemic hit EXTREMELY close to home. Vivek’s wife, a physician who specializes in airways, gave birth to their son in February, and she rushed back to work to treat patients—where she caught COVID—while he took care of baby. (Don’t worry, everyone’s healthy and reunited now!) 

Of course, the “holy grail” in COVID-19 breakthroughs would be a universal, widely available, safe, and effective vaccine, he says—but “our national strategy can't be predicated on it.”

In the meantime, we need safe and effective therapeutics if we want to get back to normal life. This is why he’s been working on a monoclonal antibody to stop the COVID-19 cytokine storm, the “overactive immune response” in which the body attacks its own organs.

This is the future of medicine—using technology like computational chemistry, AI, and machine learning to intentionally design small molecules for specifically targeted and tailored therapeutics.

And this episode is the kind of uplifting conversation we need right now. He talks about everything from health data privacy and adaptations to clinical trial monitoring, to his incredible family story and how he and his brother both run biotech companies with the potential to change the future of health care and save lives. 

Listen to the whole thing at or anywhere else you get your podcasts, including Apple, Google, and Spotify.


More Health Care News:

Axios: Vaccinations are plummeting amid coronavirus pandemic
“A decline in pediatric care during the pandemic has put a lot of children behind the curve on routine vaccinations.” 

Wall Street Journal (Opinion): Rules for clinical trials in a pandemic
Former FDA Commissioners Scott Gottlieb and Mark McClellan write about how trial protocols have changed.


Another voice in the bipartisan call to advance biofuels

Another U.S. Senator has joined the effort to advance biofuel innovation—which comes as welcome news in a time when we need to clean up our air and boost our rural economies. 

ICYMI: Last week, Sens. John Thune (R-SD) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced legislation (S.3986) that would approve certain advanced biofuel registrations and require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take action on pending registration applications and pathway petitions. 

Now, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) is joining the effort to “override the EPA’s inaction on advanced biofuel registrations and allow our producers to continue their innovative work without unnecessary, burdensome approval processes holding them back and create added value and new opportunities for our farmers and biofuel producers.”

If the legislation is passed, “EPA will have to render a final decision within a total of one year after a pathway petition is deemed completed,” says Sen. Ernst’s press release

Why it matters: Even before COVID-19, the biofuels industry in Iowa was hit hard by unprecedented exemptions to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). This legislation would allow innovation to move forward, bringing a much-needed boost to rural economies like those in Iowa as well as new opportunities to develop renewable fuel that can help reduce carbon emissions.

BIO Beltway Report

President Trump’s Monday: Lunch with the veep today. An executive order extending restrictions on foreign workers is expected this week, reports POLITICO

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: COVID-19 hearings continue this week, with the House Education and Labor Committee holding a virtual hearing today on how the pandemic has widened racial inequities. The House is planning to take up spending bills after July 4, POLITICO’s Day Ahead reports.


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