How to win the antibiotic arms race

July 20, 2020
Starting the week with Jim Greenwood’s 25th and final episode of the I AM BIO Podcast—and a look at what Congress needs to do to help fight AMR. We also dig deeper into some recent animal health research, which gives us yet another reason why One Health matters. Here…

Starting the week with Jim Greenwood’s 25th and final episode of the I AM BIO Podcast—and a look at what Congress needs to do to help fight AMR. We also dig deeper into some recent animal health research, which gives us yet another reason why One Health matters. Here are 916 words, around 4 and a half minutes.

How to win the antibiotic arms race

In Jim Greenwood’s final episode of the I AM BIO Podcast, he chats about antimicrobial resistance (AMR), and what Congress needs to do to help the industry develop new antibiotics to beat these nightmare bugs.

Up to 160,000 Americans die from antibiotic-resistant infections each year—but (almost) nobody’s talking about it. “It’s not like there's a big concentration of patients or a big outbreak that really grips public attention like, for example, COVID or even Ebola or Zika,” explains Dr. Greg Frank, BIO’s Director of Infectious Disease Policy, who oversees Working to Fight AMR. “It’s this very slow-developing pandemic.”

The death count includes patients fighting viruses like COVID-19 and the flu—with as many as 50% of these deaths caused by secondary infections.

We need to treat the antibiotic pipeline like a “never-ending arms race,” he continues. “Resistance is never going to go away. Every product we use, no matter how appropriately or appropriately targeted—the bacteria and the fungi are going to escape it.”

The problem? The market disincentivizes development and investment in new antibiotics, and disincentivizes hospitals from treating patients with new ones when they are developed, Dr. Frank explains. 

Policy could help. It’s time to pass the DISARM Act, which would create a separate reimbursement for antibiotics under Medicare—allowing hospitals to fully recoup the cost of newer treatments. 

Ending with some good news: 20+ biopharma companies recently came together to form the $1 billion AMR Action Fund to create two to four new antibiotics in the next decade, which will “buy us time” to advance policies that fix the antibiotic market.

Listen to the whole thing at or wherever you get your podcasts including Apple, Google, or Spotify.

Learn more about AMR at


More Health Care News: 

The New York Times: How Novavax won $1.6 billion to make a coronavirus vaccine
“Although the company…had never brought a vaccine to market in its 33-year history, [experts] were optimistic about its technology, which uses moth cells to pump out crucial molecules at a much faster rate than typical vaccines—a major advantage in a pandemic.” 

The New York Times: Mistrust of a coronavirus vaccine could imperil widespread immunity
“Billions are being poured into developing a shot, but the rapid timetable and President Trump’s cheerleading are creating a whole new group of vaccine-hesitant patients.” 

The Wall Street Journal (Opinion): Behind the HHS-CDC disagreement
“We need to invest in a domestic supply chain for diagnostic testing equipment and laboratory services and develop some mothballed capacity to handle a surge in demand,” writes former FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb.


How animals can save human lives

After last week’s news that koalas with chlamydia might help us develop a chlamydia vaccine for humans, we started digging into more animal health research that’s helping humans, too.

Chlamydia is bad. One of the most common sexually transmitted infections, chlamydia can cause scarring and inflammation that leads to “infertility, ectopic pregnancy, or pelvic inflammatory disease,” as well as male infertility and birth abnormalities, explains The New York Times.

It affects koalas, too—causing severe pain and inflammation, cysts, and scarring of the reproductive tract. 

Scientists have made progress on a vaccine—for koalas. Trials in Australia show it’s safe and triggers a lifetime immune response in the animals.

This research could help us discover a vaccine for humans, too. “The koala represents a perfect clinical model, because it’s an animal for which you can do some experimentation that’s a little more than what you can do in humans,” said immunologist Paola Massari, who is working on the vaccine. “And at the same time, if you get results, you are curing a disease (in koalas).”

Meanwhile, pigs are helping scientists make more lungs available for transplants, reports STAT News

By connecting a damaged donated human lung to a pig’s liver, kidney, and circulatory system, it can remain viable for much longer than they can on perfusion machines, because “the pig performs as a natural bioreactor to allow repair of the donated lungs.” 

In addition to organ transplants, this technology could be used when studying stem cells, drugs to regenerate organs, or repairing other injured organs.

Bringing it back to COVID-19, one of the most interesting innovations in treating and preventing the coronavirus is coming from cows—specifically, SAB Biotherapeutics’ biotech cows, which can produce fully human antibodies at the numbers needed for therapeutics and vaccines. 

This is why policy matters. One Health policies can support research into links between the health of humans, animals, and the environment, while modern animal biotech regulations can ensure eventual innovations can get to patients.  


More Agriculture and Environment News:

Interesting Engineering: This eco-friendly e-bike has pineapple and flaxseed components
“Most of Luna's components are bio-based and recyclable, they provide high performance while not compromising the environmental safety.” 

STAT News (Opinion): The pandemic has exposed our broken pharma supply chain. Synthetic biology and brewer’s yeast could fix it
“With today’s understanding of DNA and modern computational tools, we can bioengineer the ingredients for medicines like analgesics and anesthetics using plants as inspiration.”

BIO Beltway Report

President Trump’s Monday: Meeting with supporters at the Trump International Hotel in D.C. 

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: Congress is back to work and expected to focus on the next coronavirus aid package, reports The Wall Street Journal. Tomorrow, July 21, House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing, Pathway to a Vaccine: Efforts to Develop a Safe, Effective, and Accessible COVID-19 Vaccine, with AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Moderna, and Pfizer set to testify. Here's a helpful infographic on the vaccine development timeline, and STAT News’ thoughts on questions the witnesses might need to answer.

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