How to ensure equitable access to vaccines

March 26, 2021
Happy Friday. We recap yesterday’s hearing on health equity and explain why clinical trial diversity leads to more equitable outcomes. We also look at gene editing’s role in enhancing your summer BBQs and meet some inspiring women dedicated to animal welfare, plant…
BIO

Happy Friday. We recap yesterday’s hearing on health equity and explain why clinical trial diversity leads to more equitable outcomes. We also look at gene editing’s role in enhancing your summer BBQs and meet some inspiring women dedicated to animal welfare, plant genetics, and patient advocacy. (794 words, 3 minutes, 58 seconds)

 

Meet Sabreena: Improving Animal Welfare with Biotech

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Growing up in a farm community and working with animals from a young age, Sabreena Larson has always had a passion for animal health and welfare.

As director of commercial operations at Acceligen, Sabreena is researching how to gene edit cattle for a trait called “Slick,” which allows the animal to better withstand heat.

This could help improve the environment, rural farm communities—and animal welfare.

Watch Sabreena tell her story.

 

How to ensure equitable access to vaccines

 
 

Yesterday, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing, Examining Our COVID-19 Response: Improving Health Equity and Outcomes by Addressing Health Disparities. Here’s what was said about equitable access to vaccines—and why clinical trial diversity matters.

Democrats and Republicans agreed: COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on low-income, minority, and rural communities. The pandemic exposed “cracks” in the U.S. health care system, as Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC) put it, which must be addressed.

This starts with equitable access to vaccinesbut requires more than simply making doses available to these communities. Senators and witnesses discussed the need for access to things like broadband internet and transportation, removing financial barriers, and making vaccine information available in “plain and multiple languages,” said Taryn Williams of the Center for American Progress. 

Visit www.COVIDVaccineFacts.org for vaccine information in English and Spanish. 

“Actions must be at the local level,” said Dr. Consuelo Wilkins of the Vanderbilt Medical Center. (ICYMI: BIO’s Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath recently went on a virtual “media tour” to discuss COVID-19 vaccines on local TV and radio stations in 15 markets across the country.) 

And we must improve clinical trial diversity. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) asked how we can make trials more diverse. Gene Woods of Atrium Health stressed the importance of speaking to people “in their language” about trials and proposed an FDA mandate of minority representation in all trials. 

A lack of education about what clinical trials are and how they work contributes to mistrust, Phyllis Arthur, BIO’s VP of Infectious Diseases and Diagnostics, recently told Endpoints News.

“I want a patient to know that…when a physician or clinician is suggesting they get this product, that the patient understands how that product might work in them,” she said. “It’s important to have that as our thought process when we’re doing clinical trials.” 

P.S. In honor of Women’s History Month, BIO hosted a virtual event for the patient advocate community featuring three inspiring women who founded and developed patient advocacy organizations, including the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s Ambassador Nancy Brinker. Read our recap with four takeaways for the industry and patient advocates to know. 


More Health Care News: 

The New York Times: Pfizer begins testing its vaccine in young children
“Results from the trial are expected in the second half of the year, and the company hopes to vaccinate younger children early next year.”

 
 
 
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"Super" foods to power your BBQ

 
 

It’s officially spring—but we’re ready to jump ahead to summer and the possibility of BBQs with our friends. Here’s some recent news about how biotech is making “super” foods to power your cookouts for years to come.

Scientists have been exploring how to use genetic engineering to make “super” corn—making it resistant to pests and drought and, more recently, using CRISPR to increase the number of kernels on ears, says a new study in Nature Plants

“More kernels per ear means higher yield,” Madelaine Bartlett, Associate Professor of Plant Biology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, told Future Human. “That means farmers are going to be using fewer resources—less land, less fertilizer, less water, and less time to get more kernels.” 

Gene editing may also one day boost another powerful superfood: blueberries. They’re packed with tons of vitamins and antioxidants—not to mention they're tasty—which is the result of decades of meticulous breeding. Researchers hope gene editing will allow them to develop better tasting, more nutritious, and higher yield blueberry plants, explains Innovature.

Why it matters: It’s about more than delicious summer meals. “As the planet faces climate change, land degradation, and an ever-increasing human population…gene editing could accelerate crop improvements to help ensure food security,” concludes Future Human.

 
 
 
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Barbara McClintock.jpg

Dr. Barbara McClintock won a Nobel Prize for discovering mobile genetic elements—paving the way for breakthroughs in plant breeding and genetic engineering.  

Dr. McClintock focused her research on corn, using the combination of a microscope and a staining technique to study individual chromosomes. Her 1931 paper, “A Correlation of Cytological and Genetical Crossing-over in Zea mays,” published with geneticist and botanist Harriet Creighton, proved that the basis of genetics is found in chromosomes.

In 1983, she won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for her discovery of mobile genetic elements.” Essentially, she proved that the position of genetic elements on a chromosome is not static—and that when the position changes, nearby genes could become active or inactive.

Dr. McClintock’s work was ignored for many years by her peers in the scientific community, who only began to recognize its importance in the 1960s and 1970s. When she won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, McClintock became the first woman to be the sole winner of the award. 

 
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President Biden’s Friday: Participating in a virtual fundraiser for Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, then heading to Wilmington, DE, for the weekend.

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: It’s time for recess.

 
 
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