How policy can unleash the potential of animal biotech

September 1, 2020
It's September. Today, we hear from experts on the potential of animal biotechnology and the importance of diversity in COVID-19 clinical trials. Here are 900 words, 4 and a half minutes.

It's September. Today, we hear from experts on the potential of animal biotechnology and the importance of diversity in COVID-19 clinical trials. Here are 900 words, 4 and a half minutes.

How policy can unleash the potential of animal biotech

Biotechnology can transform agriculture—making animals and crops resistant to disease, ensuring our food supply is nutritious and secure, and boosting rural economies. Now, it’s time for policy to catch up to this incredible science, writes the head of Missouri’s Department of Agriculture.

“[K]eeping our livestock disease-free has taken on a new sense of urgency, not only to safeguard our herds from foreign animal diseases, but also to protect our economic health,” says Chris Chinn, Director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture and a hog producer, in an op-ed in the Missouri Realist.

Agriculture biotechnology could save animal lives and rural economies—by breeding animals resistant to diseases like porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, African swine fever, and avian flu. 

“More urgent perhaps are the potential human health benefits,” she continues. “Innovations in animal biotechnology may be able to prevent, prepare for, and respond to outbreaks of infectious diseases such as COVID-19, Ebola, MERS, and Zika, among others, by providing prevention strategies and treatments for humans.” 

But: “These innovations are moving forward in slow motion until the regulatory pathway for animal biotechnology is streamlined. Currently, there is no time frame for the approval process; it’s confusing, burdensome, and unpredictable.” 

It’s time for policy to catch up to the science. Chinn suggests the government streamline animal biotech regulations, with “an agreement between the [U.S. Department of Agriculture] and [U.S. Food and Drug Administration]” to make commercialization “clear, consistent, risk-based, and predictable.” 

“Now more than ever we must invigorate investment, generate cures, transform our food system, and sustain our economy,” concludes Chinn. “Now is the time for policy to catch up to science.”

Read the whole thing.


More Agriculture and Environment News:

The New York Times: U.S. will revive global virus-hunting effort ended last year
“A federal agency is resurrecting a version of Predict, a scientific network that for a decade watched for new pathogens dangerous to humans. Joe Biden has also vowed to fund the effort.” 


Why racial diversity in clinical trials matters

Large COVID-19 vaccine trials are underway—but how can we ensure they include the people who are hit hardest by the virus? A young clinical trial volunteer and scientists have some ideas.

There are a few reasons why clinical trials are lacking in racial diversity—including distrust among Black and African American communities after the Tuskegee experiments. (We talked about this on a recent episode of the I AM BIO Podcast with Moderna’s Chief Medical Officer.) 

But one of the first Black participants in Moderna’s trial says the vaccine is safe—and she urges Black people in particular to volunteer for the trial, reports ABC News

"This is an opportunity to repair that damage and build up some trust," said Sophia Upshaw, a Ph.D student of biomedical engineering at Emory University, where the trial was conducted. "I’m hoping my story will inspire Black people to take the vaccine when it comes out."

“I want people to know that if they can’t trust the government, that’s all right,” she continued. “But please trust the science.”

This is one reason why BIO launched the BIOEquality Agenda, our action plan to find solutions to inequitable health care delivery and eliminate racial disparities. 

We’ll be working to improve diversity in clinical trials, among other goals. We’re already seeing companies step up with financial commitments and partnerships with minority-serving institutions like HBCUs and medical centers.

Dr. Michelle’s Diagnosis: I really see science as a social justice issue. We spend a lot of time in this country talking about co-pays for certain drugs and bringing down the cost for an individual medication, but we don’t talk about how cutting-edge medical research has the ability to unlock many of the things that keep communities in poverty—access to nutritious foods, access to clean air and water, and medicines that actually work to free people from the symptoms that impact their ability to earn a living and take care of their children. Anything that blocks communities—vulnerable communities—from having access to that scientific research perpetuates injustice. – BIO President and CEO Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath   

Learn more about the BIOEquality Agenda.

Learn more about what BIO members are doing to fight COVID-19.


More Health Care News:

Biopharma Dive: Vir, GSK push coronavirus antibody drug straight into mid-stage tests
“Vir and GSK moved their drug straight into a mid-stage trial that will begin with a ‘lead in’ phase testing the safety of the therapy in a small group of non-hospitalized patients, followed by an ‘expansion’ phase judging the treatment's effectiveness in a wider range of volunteers.” 

STAT News (Opinion): Did disparities kill the king of Wakanda?
“[Chadwick] Boseman’s death is reinvigorating discussions about the rising incidence of colon cancer in young people, meaning those under age 50, as well as about racial inequities in colon cancer screening and deaths from the disease,” write three minority health experts.

BIO Beltway Report

President Trump’s Tuesday: He’s heading to Kenosha, Wisconsin, though some local officials have urged him to cancel the visit; NBC Chicago has background

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: According to POLITICO Playbook PM, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) sent a note to his colleagues outlining the pre-election agenda, which includes a stopgap funding bill and “a package of bills to ‘invest in energy innovation and clean energy development.’”

CORRECTION: On August 31, we reported that "gene editing has allowed farmers to grow papaya resistant to ringspot virus." However, the virus-resistant papaya is actually developed by genetic modification, not gene editing.

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