How gene edited cows might help us fight the coronavirus

March 12, 2020
A quick recap of Wednesday: WHO declared the coronavirus a pandemic, Trump imposed new travel restrictions on Europe, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson tested positive, and you really shouldn’t look at your investment accounts right now. In better news, we have details on…

A quick recap of Wednesday: WHO declared the coronavirus a pandemic, Trump imposed new travel restrictions on Europe, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson tested positive, and you really shouldn’t look at your investment accounts right now.

In better news, we have details on another biotech innovation that might help, as well as some insight on what the White House is thinking about drug pricing, in about 820 words, or 4 minutes.

How biotech cows might help us fight the coronavirus

We know the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, jumped from animals to humans. Now, a biotech company is using genetically modified animals to create human antibodies with real potential to fight it, says Sioux Falls Business

BIO member SAB Biotherapeutics “developed a first-of-its-kind therapeutic approach,” which creates antibodies that “work within a patient’s own immune system to both neutralize the virus and activate the other components of the immune system that are important to helping the body fight the disease.” 

The platform uses genetically engineered cattle as “plasma factories, capable of producing blood plasma and human antibodies at a faster rate than humans could,” as Futurism explained.

It’s safe and effective. The antibodies are created in a “controlled environment” proven to be safe in trials and effective against MERS-CoV, the coronavirus causing Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, which is similar to the new coronavirus. 

This is what we mean by One Health—a term increasingly being used by health experts “to better focus on the linkages between human, animal and environmental health and the need to develop comprehensive solutions.” 

And it’s why we need BARDA. The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, awarded SAB $5.3 million in 2016 to test the therapeutic on MERS-CoV. 

And it’s why, whatever happens with the new coronavirus, we must finish the research we start. “[We] have a tremendous amount of historical information and data about how we can potentially respond to this new coronavirus. That has allowed us to have some very directed strategies about how we bring this all together in order to respond,” said SAB CEO Eddie Sullivan

Read more about One Health.


More Agriculture & Environment News:

South China Morning Post: US and China ‘still talking about trade deal despite coronavirus disruption’
“The Covid-19 outbreak may delay China’s purchase of US goods and services as pledged in the phase one trade deal signed on January 15, but both sides are in close contact to address the disruption.”


White House outlines drug pricing principles

Joe Grogan, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal outlining the administration’s principles for reducing drug costs

The White House recognizes “America’s strength in pharmaceutical innovation,” and Grogan says “the administration’s goal is to help patients, including seniors, afford the drugs they need, not destroy this vital industry.”

So, the White House urges Congress to do five things:

  • Cap out-of-pocket expenses in Medicare Part D.
  • Provide an option to cap monthly pharmacy costs.
  • Offer protection against the “cost cliff” created by the Affordable Care Act.
  • Give insurance companies an incentive to negotiate better prices for costly drugs.
  • Limit drugmakers’ price increases. 

Hey, we agree with an out-of-pocket cap in Medicare Part D—though it’s unclear how this “principle” translates into policy. 

And unfortunately, the administration has missed an important opportunity to address perverse incentives in the insurance market. Drug manufacturers already provide billions of dollars in rebates on prescription drugs, but instead of being passed along to patients, they’re more often used to pad the profits of middlemen, as BIO CEO Jim Greenwood has explained

In other words...We don’t need to “negotiate better prices for costly drugs." We need to make sure America’s seniors get the savings that are already available.

The bottom line: It’s encouraging to see the administration’s commitment to lowering out-of-pocket costs for patients seeking financial relief at the pharmacy counter, but only time will tell how these principles will translate into policy—and at the moment, Congress is focused on the coronavirus response and FY2021 budget requests.

More Health Care News:

STAT: Under pressure, Trump administration looks to cap insulin costs with a Medicare program
“The Trump administration announced a new voluntary program that would lower the out-of-pocket cost Medicare beneficiaries pay for insulin to $35 a month, a move designed to deflate rising anger over prices for medicines and, consequently, give President Trump a lift during an election year.”

BIO Beltway Report

President Trump’s Thursday: Meeting with the Prime Minister of Ireland at the White House. Trump, Biden, and Sanders are canceling campaign events nationwide.

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: The House will vote on H.R. 6201, the Democrats’ coronavirus package, which POLITICO Pro reports includes “emergency provisions that include paid sick leave, widespread free testing, food aid and unemployment insurance.” Meanwhile, Senate committees will hear testimony on USDA’s FY2021 budget request, as well as agricultural innovation and federal biotechnology regulations. And in case you or a friend are visiting DC, the Capitol has stopped all public tours through the end of March, at least.

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