A few things to know about coronavirus R&D

May 6, 2020
What can we expect in terms of coronavirus treatments and vaccines—and when? BIO’s Jim Greenwood and Merck’s Julie Gerberding have some insight on these questions, and how the industry’s rising to a very big challenge. We’re also looking at why you shouldn’t get TOO…

What can we expect in terms of coronavirus treatments and vaccines—and when? BIO’s Jim Greenwood and Merck’s Julie Gerberding have some insight on these questions, and how the industry’s rising to a very big challenge. We’re also looking at why you shouldn’t get TOO excited about lower levels of carbon emissions, and who’s calling Congress “a highly efficient virus spreading machine,” in just under 900 words, about 4 minutes, 22 seconds.

A few things to know about coronavirus R&D

It’s unprecedented. It’s a challenge, definitely, but it’s the biotech industry’s finest moment, too. These are a few takeaways from some biotech industry leaders making headlines today.

It’s unprecedented. “The world has never, ever seen a situation in which this much science and this many companies, large and small, are arrayed against one target,” BIO President & CEO Jim Greenwood told The Hill’s editor-at-large Steve Clemons.

“The science has never been better.” Jim outlines how BIO and our members organized a virtual summit with industry and government, and formed the BIO Coronavirus Collaboration Initiative to share what we’re doing, share data, and "coordinate like never before.”

Click to watch:

Jim Greenwood and The Hill's Steve Clemons

And a lot of innovation is occurring at the small-company level. “It wouldn’t surprise me if it turns out to be a small American biotech company that develops the first vaccine,” Jim continues

But don’t misunderstand—it won’t be easy. “We have to be honest that we really don’t understand this disease,” Merck’s chief patent officer Julie Gerberding said in a recent industry call, according to Informa PharmaIntelligence. (Merck invented the world’s first approved Ebola vaccine, so she knows.) 

And scaling will be difficult. “The capital investment required is large and it takes time to make sure that the manufacturing processes are safe and simple, and can meet the demand not just in the developed world, but for all of the countries and environments where the medicine is necessary,” she continued.

But if anyone can do it, it’s biotech. Speaking about the SARS outbreak in 2003, she said, “[W]e had a few companies step forward to try to create antivirals, vaccines, or immunotherapies but none of those products ended up crossing the finish line. Fast forward to where we are in 2020, 130 candidates just for antivirals…this is an unprecedented investment and engagement of the entire biopharmaceutical industry.”

“It really is the finest moment of the biopharmaceutical industry,” she concluded. We agree.

Learn more about how the biotech industry is collaborating to beat COVID-19 at www.bio.org/coronavirus.


More Health Care News: 

Biopharma Dive: Pfizer, BioNTech launch U.S. trial of coronavirus vaccine
“Pfizer and BioNTech expect to have initial data from the trial in late May or June. Pfizer is also preparing to scale up manufacturing to deliver millions of doses by the end of 2020.” 

Bloomberg: Regeneron Covid-19 Antibody Treatment Could Be Available by Fall
“The therapy consists of a cocktail of two antibodies, which are manufactured versions of proteins that would typically be produced as part of an immune response to a virus.”


Don’t get too excited about those clear, blue skies…

We’re enjoying the viral stories about wild animals roaming city streets and the decline in carbon emissions due to everyone staying home—we’ll take any positive news we can get. But as BIO’s Cornelia Poku explains in a blog post, clear blue skies aren’t all they’re cracked up to be right now.

Let’s start with carbon. It’s still a problem, and the small dip in emissions “hardly hits the milestones that need to be met in order to lower the earth’s temperature,” she says

Carbon’s not only hurting the planet—it’s hurting humans, too. Several recent studies, including one from Harvard University, have found undeniable links between poor air quality and the worst symptoms and even death from COVID-19. 

Then, there’s plastic. Between the masks and gloves, the ventilators, and the single-use packaging for groceries, takeout, and cleaning supplies, plastic is helping to keep us safe—but it’s still got to go somewhere.

So, what’s the solution? Biotech—and specifically, technology like biofuels and bioplastics. 

Give me some examples. From Gevo’s jet fuel with no carbon footprint, to the many companies using plants and waste to make renewable, biodegradable plastic alternatives—some of which can even be used to make hospital-grade PPE—biotech can help us tackle challenges like climate change and plastic waste as well as human health, pandemic or not. 

To learn more about how BIO members are solving environment and health challenges, visit our website.


More Agriculture & Environment News: 

POLITICO: Trump national security official says U.S. not considering ‘punitive measures’ against China
“What President Trump is looking at doing is continuing with the policy that he ran on, the policy that he’s implemented—which is to have a reciprocal and fair relationship with China,” said deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger. 

The Hill: Legislation aims to block fossil fuel companies from receiving coronavirus aid
“The sweeping Resources for Workforce Investments, Not Drilling (ReWIND) Act aims to prevent fossil fuel companies from receiving loans provided for under previous coronavirus aid packages and prevent the Trump administration from helping the companies in other ways.”

BIO Beltway Report

President Trump’s Wednesday: Signing a proclamation declaring today National Nurses Day, lunch with the veep, and meeting with Iowa’s Governor. Meanwhile, the administration is reportedly planning to wind down the Coronavirus Task Force and hand over the response to agencies like FEMA and other advisory groups. 

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: Sen. Health Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is urging Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to accept rapid test kits from the White House, warning that Congress could be “a highly efficient virus spreading machine.”

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