How we can boost access to COVID vaccines and treatments

March 9, 2021
BIO’s Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath explains how we can boost access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments—around the world and right here at home. And since everyone’s talking about tackling climate change and building resiliency, we explain how biotech can help. (819…
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BIO’s Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath explains how we can boost access to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments—around the world and right here at home. And since everyone’s talking about tackling climate change and building resiliency, we explain how biotech can help. (819 words, 4 minutes, 5 seconds)

 

How we can boost access to COVID vaccines and treatments

 
 

We have safe and effective vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics—but to end the pandemic, we need to ensure everyone has access to them. This week, BIO President and CEO Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath explained how we can boost access, both at home and abroad.

“The global pandemic can only be ended with global efforts that reach everywhere this deadly virus is prevalent,” said BIO’s Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath in a letter yesterday to President Biden

The letter highlights the importance of the COVAX and ACT Accelerator initiatives, which will deliver vaccines to poor and underdeveloped countries. (One of the Biden administration’s first actions was announcing the United States will participate in them.)

The letter also highlights concerns with the World Health Organization’s proposed TRIPS waiver, which would temporarily waive intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines and drugs and “distract from the need for coordinated international efforts and the cooperative work that currently is being advanced, and thus ultimately undermine the very goals of quick, safe access that it seeks to promote.” 

What about underrepresented communities right here in the United States? “Until officials address [vaccine] hesitancy systematically, it will obstruct vaccination efforts—long after vaccine supply and delivery concerns are resolved,” she writes in an op-ed for the New Jersey Star-Ledger, co-authored by Dr. Shereef Elnahal, President and CEO of University Hospital in Newark. 

“But here’s who can sway them: pastors, family doctors, and other trusted local influencers—even hairstylists,” they continue. “With help from community pillars, we can convince a critical mass to get vaccinated.” 

Read the whole thing to learn how.

 

More Health Care News:

Reuters: Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine neutralizes Brazil variant in lab study
“The scientists said the neutralizing ability was roughly equivalent to the vaccine’s effect on a previous less contagious version of the virus from last year.”

STAT News: A pandemic expert weighs in on the long road ahead for COVID-19 vaccine distribution
CEPI will “launch the strategy for its next set of goals and take part in an important discussion at the London think tank Chatham House aimed at finding ways to unblock the vaccine production bottlenecks without harming non-COVID vaccine production.”

 
 
 
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Mila Makovec.jpg

Meet Mila Makovec, the first person in the world to receive a drug tailored just to her. While her life was tragically cut short, her legacy will inspire the biotechnology industry’s work to develop breakthrough personalized medicine. 

Mila was born with CLN7, an extremely rare form of Batten disease, an inherited neurodegenerative disease.

In 2018, she became the first person in the world to receive a drug customized for one patient: milasen, which was developed by Dr. Timothy Yu at Boston Children’s Hospital. Developed and delivered in just 10 months, the treatment “inspired others to pursue bespoke antisense and gene therapies to treat other children with ultra-rare conditions,” explains Global Genes.

Mila passed away on February 12, 2021, at the age of 10—but her short life brought knowledge for researchers and hope for patients.

Her mother founded Mila’s Miracle Foundation to find and fund paths to a cure for devastating neurological conditions like Batten disease.

 

How biotech can help us meet our agriculture and climate policy goals

 
 

There’s been a lot of talk in D.C. lately about how we can tackle climate change, food security, and pandemic preparedness. Ahead of a few important hearings and expected legislation, we took a deep dive into how biotech can help us meet these agriculture and climate policy goals.

We’ve got challenges. A zoonotic disease has killed 500,000 Americans, climate change is causing increasingly volatile and devastating weather events—and if we don’t act, this is just the tip of the quickly melting iceberg

But we have the tools to counter the effects of climate change, prevent the next pandemic, and build resiliency. Thanks to biotechnology, we have solutions for reducing GHG emissions, eliminating plastic waste, making food more sustainable and nutritious, and creating jobs. 

This is biotechnology’s moment—but to seize it, we need effective collaboration with policymakers, and specifically, policies that accelerate biotechnology. 

What kind of policies? Read the whole thing for recommendations related to climate policy, agricultural innovation, and animal biotechnology

So, what's on the agenda this week? On Thursday, the House Agriculture Committee will look at food insecurity in America, while the Senate Agriculture Committee will look at how farmers and foresters can tackle climate change. Stay tuned.

 

More Agriculture and Environment News:

Washington Post: Relief bill is most significant legislation for Black farmers since Civil Rights Act, experts say
“A little-known element of President Biden’s massive stimulus relief package would pay billions of dollars to disadvantaged farmers — benefiting Black farmers in a way that some experts say no legislation has since the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” (BIO supported the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act in a letter to Congress you can read here.)

The New York Times: A biography of the woman who will re-engineer humans
“In The Code Breaker Walter Isaacson reprises several of his previous themes—science, genius, experiment, code, thinking different—and meets his first female subject, Jennifer Doudna, a genuine heroine for our time.”

 
 
 
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President Biden’s Tuesday: Visiting a small business in D.C. that benefited from the Paycheck Protection Program. 

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: The House will take up the Senate-amended COVID-19 relief package, with a vote possible today or tomorrow. At 10 AM ET, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will hold a full committee hearing, Examining Our COVID-19 Response: An Update from the Frontlines.

 
 
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