Breakthrough drugs are no accident

October 9, 2020
There’s been a lot of chatter about breakthrough coronavirus treatments this week—so today, we tell you how novel therapies come about in the United States. (No, it’s not magic.) And since we’re still excited about the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, we take a look at…
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There’s been a lot of chatter about breakthrough coronavirus treatments this week—so today, we tell you how novel therapies come about in the United States. (No, it’s not magic.) And since we’re still excited about the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, we take a look at CRISPR’s potential in industrial biotech and biofuels. Here are 830 words, 4 minutes.

 

Breakthrough drugs are no accident

 
 

They’re possible thanks to the deliberate innovation ecosystem we’ve built in the United States—which includes strong intellectual property protections. We take a look at some of them in a new blog post.

Of the nearly 750 unique active compounds in development to fight COVID-19, more than half are being researched and developed in U.S. labs. 

And it’s not just COVID: More than half of the roughly 8,000 treatments in development globally are byproducts of U.S. labs. This includes 1,200 therapies to fight cancer, 566 medicines targeting rare diseases, and 200 treatments for heart disease and stroke.

“America’s innovation ecosystem is no accident. It’s a direct and intentional result of decades of smart, forward-thinking policies that incentivize and reward innovation,” we write.

These include policies like patent protections as well as legislation such as the Hatch-Waxman Act, which has advanced new discoveries and competition that drives down costs, and the Bayh-Dole Act, which helps private companies turn early-stage federally funded research into tangible medicines and products.

Bayh-Dole is more important than ever, as we’ve explained, as drug manufacturers are pouring billions of dollars into turning basic science from federally funded research into potential COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics. 

But some want the federal government to wrongly use it to “march in” and seize the patents on these drugs, sending “a chilling message to companies in every industry—don’t bother investing billions of R&D dollars to turn federally funded inventions into real-life, market-ready products, since the government will just steal the fruit of your labor,” explains David Winwood, an expert in university technology transfer, in The Washington Times.

Laws and protections like Bayh-Dole have helped us “live healthier, more prosperous lives,” concludes Winwood. “We should nurture this innovation—not squash it by inappropriate use of march-in rights.” 

Want to know more about what’s happening in the biopharmaceutical investment ecosystem? Join us next week for BIO Investor Forum Digital, three days of virtual educational sessions and networking with investors and potential partners.

 
 
 
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How CRISPR is cleaning up the planet

 
 

We’re just so delighted that the Nobel Prize for Chemistry was awarded to the two scientists who discovered CRISPR, so we’re going to keep talking about it. Yesterday, we discussed how this technology could improve animal and human health. Today, we take a look at its potential in industrial biotech and biofuels.

ICYMI: Discovered by now-Nobel Prize winners Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, CRISPR Cas-9 is the gene editing technology that allows scientists to make small, precise edits to an organism’s own genome. 

“Beyond the numerous therapeutic applications of CRISPR technology, gene-editing tech can be used to create new materials in the industrial biotech space,” explains CB Insights.

Here are a few cool examples. 

Industrial biotech: CRISPR is being used “to improve the industrial fermentation process” and “manipulate microbes in order to produce new chemicals,” such as fragrances, flavors, and cleaning products, continues CB Insights. (In fact, Jennifer Doudna founded BIO member Caribou Biosciences to focus on these non-therapeutic applications.)

Sustainable fuels: Synthetic Genomics partnered with ExxonMobil to produce a strain of algae with extra fat content to be used as “a renewable, lower-emission alternative to traditional transportation fuels,” as just one example

Manufacturing: Thanks to CRISPR, researchers are developing poplar trees with less lignin, which gives trees their rigid structure, explains the Genetic Literacy Project. The trees still grow strong and tall—but require less energy to process into products like paper. 

The next steps: Thanks to brilliant scientists, we have the tools to develop solutions for our world’s biggest health and environmental challenges, particularly climate change. Now, we need to ensure policy supports the development of this technology.

Dig in:
Cornell: 10 ways CRISPR will revolutionize environmental science 

Learn more about how we can grow climate solutions.

 

More Agriculture and Environment News:

New Scientist: Cattle are being gene edited to help them survive climate change
“CRISPR genome editing has been used to create a cow with grey patches instead of black, meaning it will absorb less heat.”

 
 

 
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President Trump’s Friday: No public events scheduled, though he said he might attend rallies in Florida and Pennsylvania this weekend.

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: We know, it’s hard to keep up with the coronavirus stimulus negotiations. Yesterday, the White House “shifted track,” again, indicating they’re open to a large stimulus package, reports Bloomberg.

 
 
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