Gilead’s good news

May 4, 2020
The Senate is back in Washington today, and we’re starting the week with a deeper dive into the good news from Gilead. But we’re also looking at the link between air pollution and COVID-19 deaths—and those who are still denying it. Here are 855 words, about 4 minutes,…

The Senate is back in Washington today, and we’re starting the week with a deeper dive into the good news from Gilead. But we’re also looking at the link between air pollution and COVID-19 deaths—and those who are still denying it. Here are 855 words, about 4 minutes, 15 seconds.

Gilead’s good news

BIO member Gilead’s remdesivir gives us a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel—and a reminder of just how much the biotech industry is investing in ending COVID-19. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized emergency use of Gilead’s remdesivir, “the first drug that appears to help some COVID-19 patients recover faster, a milestone in the global search for effective therapies against the coronavirus,” reports the AP

Gilead developed the experimental antiviral a decade ago and tested it against various diseases including Ebola and childhood respiratory illnesses before trying it on COVID-19.

Now, preliminary results show the drug shortened some COVID-19 patients’ recovery time by 31%, reducing hospital stays by an average of 4 days compared to those who received a placebo.

The next steps: “Gilead can work with the government to directly ship the drug to hospitals with the greatest need,” explains The Wall Street Journal. “Gilead expects to manufacture 1.5 million doses by the end of May, or up to 210,000 treatment courses.” 

What they’re saying: Gilead’s success “reaffirms the American way” of R&D, say Gilead Board members John F. Cogan and George P. Schultz in The Wall Street Journal. “The long development time, unexpected setbacks and mounting costs are the norm in drug development. The costs are funded by reinvested profits and supported by risk-taking shareholders with a long time horizon.” 

Learn more about what BIO members are doing to end the coronavirus at


More Health Care News: 

The Wall Street Journal: Drug Innovation to the Rescue
“The world hasn’t had much good news of late, but some arrived on Friday as the Food and Drug Administration approved the emergency use of the drug remdesivir to treat Covid-19 patients. This underscores that drug innovation, especially by private American companies, is the best hope we have for defeating the coronavirus.”

The Wall Street Journal: Roche coronavirus antibody test wins FDA approval for emergency use
“Roche says its test has proven 100% accurate at detecting COVID-19 antibodies in the blood, and 99.8% accurate at ruling out the presence of those antibodies.”

The Washington Post: Inside the extraordinary race to invent a coronavirus vaccine
"With at least 115 vaccine projects at companies and research labs, the science is hurtling forward so fast and bending so many rules about how the process usually works that even veteran vaccine developers do not know what to expect."


The link between pollution and COVID-19 deaths

A recent Harvard study shows a clear link between air pollution and the COVID-19 death rate—and it seems to be making the oil industry nervous. Here's what we know.

Harvard says: People who live in areas with high levels of air pollution are more likely to die from COVID-19, and even small increases in particulate air pollution raises the death rate by at least 8%

But the oil industry’s not buying it. “The American Petroleum Institute this week argued in a letter that the Harvard research and other preliminary studies ‘cannot be used to draw policy inferences,’” POLITICO reported last week

BUT Harvard’s not the only one that’s made the connection between poor air quality and increased COVID-19 deaths, as the University of Cambridge and Aarhus University in Denmark found links in similar studies in other parts of the world, too.

In fact, the connection between deteriorating health and poor air quality due to fossil fuels is so clear, the American Lung Association includes a “transition from coal and oil to cleaner alternatives” as their energy policy principle

Low-carbon fuels can help. An international research program led by NASA found using biofuels to help power jets reduced particle emissions in exhaust by as much as 50-70%

And so can low-carbon fuel standards. California’s LCFS has helped avoid 52 million tons of carbon pollution—and the American Lung Association and Environmental Defense Fund found LCFS implementation would significantly reduce cases of acute respiratory symptoms, which are known to increase the likelihood of death from the coronavirus.

Stephanie’s Sage Words: It’s clear there’s a link between air pollution and COVID-19 deaths—and it’s clear this is yet another attempt by the oil industry to cover up the connection between fossil fuels and climate change. We have the technology to make cleaner fuels—and even replace petroleum products—using plants and waste, but policy needs to catch up. Renewable, low-carbon fuels—as well as national low-carbon fuel standards—could help us respond to the coronavirus health impacts and rebuild a more resilient economy, especially in rural America. – Stephanie Batchelor, VP of BIO’s Industrial and Environment Section

BIO Beltway Report

President Trump’s Monday: After spending the weekend at Camp David, there’s nothing on the public schedule today. During yesterday’s Fox News town hall at the Lincoln Memorial, he said he’s “very confident” there will be a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year. He's going to Arizona tomorrow to tour Honeywell's medical equipment facility. 

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: The full Senate is back in Washington today, with guidelines. As of now, the House is planning to return next Monday, May 11. In the meantime, House Appropriations will hold a hearing on Wednesday, May 6, on COVID-19 response, while Senate HELP Committee will hold a hearing on Thursday, May 7, on new COVID-19 diagnostics.

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