A feat for vaccines, the COVID-19 public health emergency in the U.S. will end on May 11. We look back at how we got here. Plus, the CEO of one of the world’s largest fertilizer companies warns of a food crisis, but biotech is advancing solutions. (612 words, 3 minutes, 3 seconds)
COVID health emergency will expire in May – a milestone for vaccines
The White House yesterday announced the COVID-19 public health emergency will expire May 11, a milestone for biotechnology and the historic vaccine development campaign.
And three years later…The pandemic public health emergency has been renewed every 90 days since it was first declared on January 31, 2020. The administration last renewed it earlier this month.
The global view: While emphasizing the pandemic remains a global health emergency, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus yesterday said, “We remain hopeful that in the coming year, the world will transition to a new phase in which we reduce hospitalizations and deaths to the lowest possible level.”
How it all happened: A new disease was reported in December 2019, and its genomic sequence was published in January 2020, launching worldwide vaccine development. By December 2020, the FDA authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for emergency use—revisit our one-year timeline and two-year timeline.
The impact: In the first two years of use, COVID-19 vaccines saved 3.2 million lives and prevented 18.5 million hospitalizations in the U.S., according to a report by the Commonwealth Fund.
But COVID-19 is still with us, officials said, and as BIO’s Phyllis Arthur noted, we have lessons to learn from the response. “We need to build some kind of sustainable, new level of supply chain and manufacturing infrastructure across all the different medical products we need, and couple that with workforce and health care support,” she said.
More Health News:
Moderna: Moderna granted FDA breakthrough therapy designation for mRNA-1345, an investigational respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine candidate
“The study met its primary efficacy endpoints, including vaccine efficacy (VE) of 83.7% against RSV.”
Fertilizer CEO warns of food crisis, but biotech can help
The CEO of one of the world’s largest fertilizer companies warns of an impending food crisis, but biotech has solutions.
What they’re saying: Our dependence on fertilizer from Russia and Ukraine allowed Putin to “weaponize” food, Yara International CEO Svein Holsether told the Financial Times. Compounded by the impacts of weather on harvests, the fertilizer shortage threatens global food security.
The problem: Most chemical fertilizers contain nitrogen—which plants need—but traditional fertilizers can pollute the water supply and emit greenhouse gases.
The solution: greener fertilizer, said Holsether—something many biotech companies are developing.
Enter microbes: BIO member companies Ginkgo Bioworks and Bayer, for example, are cooperating through their joint venture Joyn Bio to solve the problem, as Bloomberg highlighted last week. Using synthetic biology, Ginkgo and Bayer alter the microbes that colonize cereal crops, like corn, wheat, and rice, so they naturally fix nitrogen into the soil.
Why it matters: By reducing the need for industrial nitrogen fertilizers in some of the most common crops, biotech innovation can help reduce the use of fertilizers, primarily sourced from Ukraine and Russia (and account for 3% of greenhouse gas emissions).
More Agriculture and Environment News:
Bloomberg: EU seeks to simplify rules in global race to boost clean tech
“The initiative, which is still subject to change ahead of its adoption on Wednesday, would ease state-aid rules to compete with the US Inflation Reduction Act, which includes roughly $500 billion in new spending and tax breaks over a decade.”
President Biden’s Tuesday: Visiting New York to announce funding for the Hudson Tunnel Project and tout other major infrastructure projects funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, per the White House.
What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: The House will debate a bill to expedite the end of the COVID-19 public emergency—though the White House declaration makes that bill seem moot POLITICO reports. The Senate is quiet today, but a hearing on the Farm Bill is set for tomorrow. ICYMI, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) reintroduced the Pharmacy Benefit Manager Transparency Act (S. 127), which BIO supports.