How biotech can lead us to a plastic-free future

March 5, 2020
There’s more news today on the coronavirus response, including what to expect from the emergency funding package as well as a new partnership between two BIO members, Vir and Alnylam. Be sure to check back tomorrow for more details. In the meantime, we’ve got a recap…

There’s more news today on the coronavirus response, including what to expect from the emergency funding package as well as a new partnership between two BIO members, Vir and Alnylam. Be sure to check back tomorrow for more details. 

In the meantime, we’ve got a recap of yesterday’s hearing on how to address the plastic waste crisis, as well as more on the CAR T-cell payment problem, in about 800 words, just under 4 minutes.

How biotech can lead us to a plastic-free future

We know the world has a plastic problem. But luckily, biotechnology—and specifically, biobased manufacturing and bioplastic alternatives—can help solve it, as we said in a statement for yesterday’s hearing on the plastic waste crisis. 

Yesterday, BIO submitted a statement for the record to the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Environment & Climate Change, for a hearing entitled, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Reform: Addressing America’s Plastic Waste Crisis.” 

Click here to read our testimony. 

The hearing focused on the environmental impacts of plastic production, including the impact on the climate. 

We know the impact of petrochemicals and plastic is expected to increase. As just one example, Environmental Research Letters identified 88 petrochemical projects along the Gulf Coast that are either in the planning stage or under construction. If all are completed, their combined emissions output could reach 150.8 million metric tons, the equivalent of 38 coal plants.  

But biobased products can provide solutions. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) found in a recent report the development of renewable chemicals and biobased products removed 12.7 million metric tonnes (mmt) of CO2 from the manufacturing sector in 2016 alone.  

The big picture: It’s clear we need to address greenhouse gas emissions from plastics produced by petrochemicals. To address climate change, policymakers must ensure legislation encourages the use of biobased products over petrochemicals and plastics, and also supports R&D and investment in biobased manufacturing processes, products, and bioplastics derived from renewable or waste-based chemicals.

The bottom line: BIO and our members are proud that we have helped to make the United States the global leader in biotechnology innovation. The furthering of biotechnology solutions can help achieve our shared goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and developing cleaner and more sustainable energy sources.

More on this topic:


The future is now for breakthrough treatments—if patients can access them

Breakthrough personalized medical treatment, such as CAR T-cell therapy, is truly “the future of medical progress,” as RealClearHealth put it in an important op-ed last week—but we must make sure patients can access this treatment, and future treatments like it.

Remind me, what’s CAR T? Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell immunotherapy is a cancer treatment in which “the patient’s own immune cells to help them take on cancer,” as RealClearHealth puts it

And it’s been incredibly successful in treating certain blood cancers, with gentler side effects than other treatments like chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. 

Why are we talking about it now? Currently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) covers the treatment with a new technology add-on payment (NTAP), but this expires on September 30, 2020. Without further action by CMS, there will be no permanent mechanism to cover the therapy for America’s seniors. 

What they’re saying: “The therapy is astonishing. However, without appropriate reimbursement policy, a Medicare patient could be denied access to a treatment that would save his or her life. Without proper reimbursement by Medicare, providers simply will not be able to offer it as an option, especially in rural areas as patients must stay near a treatment center for four weeks to be monitored,” explain the RealClearHealth editors

And 76 Members of Congress agree. They sent a letter to ask CMS to “ensure that hospitals are appropriately reimbursed” for the therapy, by establishing a Medicare Severity-Diagnosis Related Group, or MS-DRG, for it. 

Why it matters: A specific payment rule for CAR T will not only help patients obtain this breakthrough treatment, but it will also serve as a model for how we reimburse future transformative medicines in the pipeline that have the ability to change the way we treat and cure our world’s deadliest and most debilitating diseases.


More Health Care News: 

FierceBiotech: Alnylam, Vir team up to develop siRNAs to tackle COVID-19
“Alnylam Pharmaceuticals and Vir Biotechnology have teamed up to develop RNAi therapeutics against the coronavirus behind the COVID-19 outbreak. The collaboration builds on Alnylam synthesis of siRNAs that target highly conserved regions of coronavirus RNA.”

The New York Times (Opinion): Letter to the Editor from Merck on Vaccines
Dr. Julie Gerberding of BIO member Merck discusses the company’s effort in 2014 to respond to the West Africa outbreak. 

USA Today: Doctors altered a patient's DNA to treat blindness with controversial gene editing tool
“Scientists say they have used the gene editing tool CRISPR inside someone's body for the first time, a new frontier for efforts to operate on DNA, the chemical code of life, to treat diseases.”

BIO Beltway Report

President Trump’s Thursday: Meeting with Secretary of State Pompeo, then heading to Scranton, Pennsylvania, for a FOX News Townhall.

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: Yesterday, the House passed the $8.3 billion emergency coronavirus package, and the Senate is expected to vote on it today. The coronavirus activity continues, with a House Committee on Science, Space, & Technology hearing this morning on solutions to the spread of coronaviruses.

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