Cheering biotech breakthroughs, from vaccines to Super Bowl snacks

February 5, 2021
Super Bowl Sunday is upon us—but today, we’re cheering for biotechnology breakthroughs that are ensuring the resiliency of our food supply and changing the course of the pandemic (plus a Black scientist who helped make it happen). Read to the end for details on “vote-a…
BIO

Super Bowl Sunday is upon us—but today, we’re cheering for biotechnology breakthroughs that are ensuring the resiliency of our food supply and changing the course of the pandemic (plus a Black scientist who helped make it happen). Read to the end for details on “vote-a-rama” in the Senate. (1000 words, 5 minutes, 37 seconds)

 

A new milestone

 
 

Finally, a pandemic milestone worth cheering: more Americans have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine than have tested positive for the virus. We look at the numbers—and why a continued focus on innovation is critical.

The numbers: 26.5 million Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 26.3 million have tested positive for the virus, reported Bloomberg on Tuesday

“The U.S. has been administering shots at a faster daily rate than any country in the world, giving about 1.34 million doses a day, according to data gathered by Bloomberg. While the rollout stumbled in its early days, in the six weeks since the first shots went into arms almost 7.8% of Americans have gotten one or more doses, and 1.8% are fully vaccinated.”

This is a global trend. According to the Financial Times, as of late Wednesday, there have been 105 million vaccine doses administered worldwide, and 103.5 million cases. 

But around 98% of the U.S. population still ISN’T fully vaccinated—which is why we must focus on innovation in the next 100 days, as we’ve explained.

What should we do? Continue expedited EUA and full approval processes for COVID-19 innovations, eliminate patient cost-sharing for COVID-19 vaccines/treatments/diagnostics, expand and adequately fund vaccination and treatment sites, develop national plans to build vaccine confidence, and distribute vaccines in an equitable manner are just a few things BIO recommends

Getting ready for your vaccination appointment? Make sure you have the facts at www.COVIDVaccineFacts.org.

 

More Health Care News:

STAT News: Johnson & Johnson submits application for COVID-19 vaccine to FDA
“If given the green light by the agency, J&J’s vaccine will likely start being used in late February or early March, though initial supplies are expected to be extremely limited.” 

San Francisco Chronicle (Opinion): Don't disturb the law that catalyzed Nobel Prize-winning research at UC Berkeley
“For 40 years, Bayh-Dole has created a policy environment where scientific innovation—kickstarted by federal research grants but overwhelmingly funded by the private sector—can flourish,” says UC Berkeley’s Carol Mimura.

 
 
 
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Let’s cheer for biotech

 
 

Just because you can’t have a big Super Bowl bash doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in your favorite game day snacks at home—which are all thanks to the power of biotechnology, BIO’s Cornelia Poku explains.

We’ve talked a lot about how biotech can improve our food—making it more nutritious, sustainable, and resilient, all year long from Super Bowl Sunday to Thanksgiving.

Whether you’re cheering for Kansas City or Tampa Bay, pork might be on the menu.

“However, pork producers across the globe are experiencing devastating loss from diseases like, African Swine Fever,” says Cornelia. “Thankfully, biotechnology companies are working on solutions to develop disease-resistance in pigs and ensure Cuban sandwiches and BBQ pulled pork are here to stay.”

Prefer nachos? Genetic engineering has made the corn in tortilla chips more resistant to pests, and the enzymes in cheese more sustainable.

And we can’t forget the beer. Yeast is actually an early “biotech breakthrough,” because “yeast is a group of single-celled fungi that breaks down enzymes.” 

The end zone: We know it’s strange to think about a smaller, quieter Super Bowl celebration—and almost one year of pandemic social distancing—but thanks to biotech, we can ensure some things, like your favorite snacks, will always stay the same. (Or better!)

 

More Agriculture and Environment News: 

Axios: How CRISPR might help diagnose and halt dangerous outbreaks faster
“Multiple CRISPR tests are now under study for COVID-19, including ones using the Broad Institute's Sherlock system or Mammoth Bioscience's DETECTR system, which both received FDA emergency use authorizations in certain circumstances.” 

 
 
 
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BIO Celebrates Black History Month
 
Kizzmekia Corbett.jpg

As we report promising COVID-19 vaccine news, we must also recognize a Black woman who made it happen: Dr. Kizzmekia "Kizzy" Corbett, the 35-year-old immunologist at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) who co-led the team that worked with Moderna to develop the COVID-19 vaccine.

After earning her Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology, she landed at the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), where she's been the scientific lead on the coronavirus vaccine team. 

“Black people are about two-to-three times more likely to die from COVID. So, as I sit here, as a Black woman and also the co-lead of the team that helped to develop one of the vaccines, it is extremely important to me to have made that history from a scientific perspective, but also to remind people how history has changed in regard to how health and science and race come together as one,” she told Essence.

“We all understand that there have been issues with mistrust and distrust,” she continued. “To stand in the forefront of the vaccine development efforts—a vaccine that is 94% efficacious and has the ability to end this pandemic and be the great equalizer as we think about health disparities—it is so important and really is an honor for me.” 

Follow Dr. Corbett on Twitter @KizzyPhD!

 
BIO Beltway Report
BIO Beltway Report
 
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President Biden’s Friday: Meeting with House Democratic leaders to work on COVID-19 relief, then delivering remarks on the economy at 11:45 AM ET before heading to Wilmington, DE. The COVID-19 Response Team will hold a briefing at 11 AM ET, and Council of Economic Advisers Member Jared Bernstein will join a press briefing at 1 PM ET. ICYMI, yesterday, President Biden gave his first major foreign policy speech in which he declared “America is back.”

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: Early this morning, the Senate “adopted a budget blueprint that would grease the wheels for a partisan coronavirus relief package that Democratic leaders are getting ready to draft next week,” reports Roll Call.

This came after “vote-a-rama,” a series of amendment votes to the budget resolution. More than 550 amendments were filed, with most covering either a high-level priority of a particular Senator or messaging to put Democrats in a difficult position on divisive issues. 

A few amendments adopted include:

  • #52: Thune (SD) amendment to establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to limiting the authority of States or other taxing jurisdictions to tax certain income of employees for employment duties performed in other States or taxing jurisdictions.
  • #54: Young (IN) amendment to establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to preventing legislation that would allow illegal immigrants to receive Economic Impact Payments or any other similar direct, tax-based temporary financial assistance.
  • #69: Rubio (FL) amendment to establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to prohibiting legislation that would increase taxes on small businesses during any period in which a national emergency has been declared with respect to a pandemic.
  • #261: Wicker (MS)/Sinema (AZ) amendment to establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund relating to establishing a fund to provide grants to food service and drinking establishments affected by COVID-19. 
 
 
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