The greening of medicine

October 19, 2020
We’re starting a new week with an inspiring podcast episode featuring a biotech company working to combat climate change and racial injustice—and also produce innovative therapies. We have details, plus a closer look at Twist Bioscience’s announcement about a new…
BIO

We’re starting a new week with an inspiring podcast episode featuring a biotech company working to combat climate change and racial injustice—and also produce innovative therapies. We have details, plus a closer look at Twist Bioscience’s announcement about a new partnership to expedite CAR T cancer treatments, in around 880 words, 4 and a half minutes.

 

The greening of medicine

 
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“The connection between human and environmental health has never been clearer or more dramatic,” says BIO’s Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath on today’s episode of the I AM BIO Podcast. She speaks with a biotech leader about the industry’s vital role in creating a more equitable and sustainable future—which includes clean air, racial justice, and ensuring the most vulnerable populations can access the science.  

“We are increasingly in the business of promoting health, not just curing disease,” says Chirfi Guindo, EVP and Head of Global Product Strategy and Commercialization at Biogen, which develops innovative therapies for neurological diseases.

In 2014, Biogen became the first life sciences company to go carbon neutral—and this year, they announced a 20-year, $250-million initiative to eliminate fossil fuels across their operations by 2040 and collaborate with Harvard and MIT to advance research into the environmental and health impacts of climate change and improve health outcomes, especially for underserved communities.  

Why does a drug company focused on neurological disease care about climate change? Air pollution is linked to 24% of stroke-related deaths and is a risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s, Guindo explains.

Biogen believes “health equity starts with clinical trials,” which requires “listening to community, listening to experts, trying to figure out where the barriers are—so trust is core to all of that.” 

“But beyond trust, what we're hearing from the community is we have to be intentional,” he continues. “We have to have talent come from those communities.” Biogen has partnered with HBCUs and local communities to get Black, African American, Latinx, and immigrant students interested in neuroscience, and is setting aggressive hiring goals and metrics.  

Why it matters: “You have to do the right thing for patients, and if you want to serve patients, you need to make sure that you have teams that reflect the full spectrum of the patient population that we serve. It’s that simple,” says Guindo.

Why it matters right now: “As we reinvest to get the economy going again, as we continue to invest to discover new drugs against Alzheimer's—which is a core area for us at Biogen—Parkinson’s disease or Lou Gehrig’s disease, all these diseases where there’s a huge unmet need, we have the opportunity to do it in ways that promote fossil-fuel-free goals and create that green movement,” he concludes. “This is the silver lining as I see it.”  

Listen at www.bio.org/podcast or your favorite podcast platform, including AppleGoogle, or Spotify.

 

More Health Care News:

Biopharma Dive: 5 questions ahead of FDA meeting on coronavirus vaccines
The October 22 advisory committee meeting “will be set against the backdrop of a presidential election 12 days later that could turn on the White House's response to the pandemic, likely making it a closely-watched affair of historic proportions.”  

The New York Times: Latino and Black Americans are still dying in disproportionately high numbers, the CDC says
“Latino deaths rose by more than 10 percent over that period, the largest increase of any group.”  

The Wall Street Journal: NIH to study three drugs in treatment of COVID-19 patients
“The NIH study will evaluate two drugs already on the market, Johnson & Johnson’s Remicade and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. Orencia, along with an investigational drug called CVC from AbbVie Inc.” 

 
 
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How synbio can expedite revolutionary cancer therapies

 
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BIO member Twist Bioscience recently announced a new partnership to use their DNA synthesis technology to create personalized cancer therapies. Details below.  

Twist Bioscience Corporation is a synthetic biology and genomics company that has developed a “disruptive DNA synthesis platform” to manufacture DNA at significant scales. 

But wait, synbio for healthcare? That's right. Synthetic biology allows the company to produce DNA for biochemicals, agriculture, and drug R&D—including for COVID-19 testing and treatment.

They’ve partnered with Neogene Therapeutics, Inc., a pre-clinical biotech that’s “pioneering a new class of fully personalized T cell therapies to treat cancer.” 

Remind me, what’s CAR T? Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell immunotherapy is a powerful cancer treatment that uses “the patient’s own immune cells to help them take on cancer,” as RealClearHealth has explained, with gentler side effects than chemotherapy and radiation.  

Twist’s goal is to develop personalized CAR T cell therapies and T cell receptor (TCR) therapies, leveraging Neogene’s proprietary expertise in targeting tumor neo-antigens, the mutated proteins found in cancer cells.

What they’re saying: “Putting our platforms together, we believe we will be able to expedite the identification and genetic engineering of TCR genes to create personalized T cell therapies for cancer, bringing new hope to address the current limitations of treatments available today,” said Dr. Emily Leproust, CEO and Co-Founder of Twist Bioscience.  

ICYMI: Dr. Leproust won the Rosalind Franklin Award at BIO IMPACT Digital—watch to learn more.

 

More Agriculture and Environment News: 

Business Insider: Seaweed may be the solution to our plastic crisis. A London startup is making edible packaging out of it.
“Notpla's natural plastic-like casing is biodegradable within four to six weeks, the company says.”

 
 
 
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BIO Beltway Report
BIO Beltway Report
 
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President Trump’s Monday: As he spent the weekend campaigning across the country, the New York Times reported he’s being “vastly outspent” by former VP Joe Biden. Today, Trump’s holding rallies in Prescott and Tucson, AZ.

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: “Democrats are destroying Republicans in truly historic ways in fundraising,” reports Axios. “In the top 14 races across the country, Democrats more than doubled Republicans’ fundraising haul,” says POLITICO. Meanwhile, Speaker Pelosi set a Tuesday deadline for an agreement on a coronavirus stimulus package, reports Bloomberg

 
 
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