Good Day BIO: ‘A really simple tool’ for food security

October 27, 2021
BIO’s Patient and Health Advocacy Digital Summit begins at 12 PM ET—we tell you how to follow along. In the news, we have a recap of yesterday’s House Agriculture hearing on biotechnology as well as a look at two proposed bills that could incentivize antibiotic R&D and…
BIO

BIO’s Patient and Health Advocacy Digital Summit begins at 12 PM ET—we tell you how to follow along. In the news, we have a recap of yesterday’s House Agriculture hearing on biotechnology as well as a look at two proposed bills that could incentivize antibiotic R&D and boost pandemic preparedness. (898 words, 4 minutes, 29 seconds)

 
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How to follow BIO's Patient & Health Advocacy Digital Summit:

 
 

What we’re watching today: We begin with a live panel on health equity and diversity, featuring Merck, Global Blood Therapeutics, American Kidney Fund, and Allergy & Asthma Network (12 PM ET). FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), industry, and advocates will discuss representing the patient voice with data (2 PM ET). Day 1 closes with conversations with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Dr. Chris Ritter (3:45 PM ET) and The Hill’s Steve Clemons (4:30 PM ET).

 
 
 
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‘A really simple tool’ for food security

 
 

Members of Congress and experts agree: gene editing can ensure we have a secure, resilient food system in the face of climate change. Here’s what they said during yesterday’s House Agriculture Committee hearing on agricultural biotechnology.

For starters, Mexico’s dramatic policy shift to delay biotech approvals for more than three years and their decree to phase out imports of ag biotech are a “contravention of the bulk of scientific evidence and it’s in violation of USMCA,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD), Ranking Member of the Livestock & Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee—catch up on the issue here

“Mexico is a key market for our pork producers,” said BIO Board member Elena Rice, Chief Scientific Officer of Genus PLC, which is using gene editing to produce pigs resistant to porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS)

“If our producers cannot import to Mexico,” it will “close the door” to these products, she continued. Mexican pork producers are interested in the product, but the uncertainty “creates a significant barrier.”

Read: USTR must take action on Mexico’s treatment of ag biotech, says BIO 

PRRS-resistant pigs are “just one example of what we can do to help promote disease resistance,” added Rep. Jim Baird (R-IN), noting that PRRS can “devastate an entire herd of 2,000 pigs in just two months.” (Rep. Baird recently led a letter to the administration on the importance of getting animal biotech to the market—read it here.) 

“Gene editing gives us a really simple tool,” continued Rice. “We’re deleting one really small portion of the gene, and as a result of that, the virus cannot enter the body of the pigs,” with “no other differences except that those pigs cannot get sick from PRRS.” 

But the regulatory approval process is “really long”—and while PRRS continues to devastate pigs across the hemisphere, we’re still several years away from these pigs getting to market. 

What they’re saying: “Integrating new technologies into agriculture is one way that we can prepare for change. I commend our biotechnology researchers and advocates who are creating ways for farmers and ranchers to build more sustainable and productive agricultural systems,” said Committee Chair Jim Costa (D-CA)

What they’re saying, continued: “The security and resiliency of our food system is paramount, and continued investments in research and biotechnology will go a long way in maintaining our spot as the world leader in food production,” said Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-VI), Chair of the Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture and Research.

 

More Agriculture and Environment News: 

Agri-Pulse: House Ag members, witnesses back acceleration of biotech advances in US
"Elena Rice, chief scientific officer at animal biotech firm Genus PLC, said the focus of regulation should be on the end products, not on the technology used to produce them. In other words, if a product made using biotechnology could be created using conventional breeding, it should not be regulated differently."

Ars Technica: Plastic industry pollution to overtake coal in US by 2030, report says
“Plastic is a large but often overlooked source of carbon pollution. Production in the US creates at least 232 million metric tons of greenhouse gases.”

 
 
 
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These two bills could help us fight superbugs—and the next pandemic

 
 

Antimicrobial resistance is a major global threat—and “superbugs” could be responsible for our next pandemic if we don’t develop new innovative products, ASAP. But two proposed bills could incentivize antimicrobial development and help to ensure global health security.

“Defeating AMR is a matter not only of public health significance but also of global health security,” said the Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria (PACCARB) in a recent letter to Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra

“The availability of effective antimicrobials is a crucial part of our nation’s pandemic preparedness, as demonstrated by the need to treat secondary bacterial and fungal infections in COVID19 patients; indeed, the next global pandemic may be an illness due to a resistant bacteria or fungus,” PACCARB continued. 

Why can’t we just develop new antibiotics? As WHO and BIO have explained, there’s a lack of mechanisms to ensure drug developers can recoup the cost of developing them.

But there are two proposed pieces of legislation that could help:

  • The DISARM Act would “modify the hospital payment system to incentivize the use of newer, more expensive antimicrobial drugs in those patient encounters that are appropriate.”
  • The PASTEUR Act would “remedy the reduced revenue realized as a result of appropriate and much needed antibiotic stewardship efforts by creating a subscription payment model for new antimicrobial drugs.” The model “delinks payment from sales volumes, thereby significantly reducing the risk to companies wishing to develop new antimicrobials.”

The stewardship provisions are key:
“Without proper stewardship, both current and newly developed antibiotics will rapidly lose utility, as has happened throughout the antibiotic era," said PACCARB.

But we have to act now: “Because of the lengthy development time for new drugs, the time to start is now. Otherwise, when we need the agents because of the rising tide of infections by resistant organisms, we will not have them," the letter concludes.

Read: Biden’s pandemic agenda cannot ignore superbugs

 

More Health Care News: 

The New York Times: FDA panel recommends the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for young children
“An expert committee advising the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday recommended that regulators authorize Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds, bringing about 28 million children a major step closer to becoming eligible for shots.”

 
 
 
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BIO Beltway Report
BIO Beltway Report
 
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President Biden’s Wednesday: Participating virtually in the East Asia Summit, where trade and economic relations will be big topics of discussion with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Russian President Vladimir Putin, per the AP

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: Washington’s watching to see whether there will be an infrastructure deal today. House Democrats unveiled a plan yesterday for a 15% corporate minimum tax on about 200 large corporations, reports CNBC. Also, STAT News says there’s bipartisan support for funding pandemic preparedness, but talks are “falling behind.” In the meantime, Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works is considering several EPA nominees.

 
 
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