It’s National Sickle Cell Awareness Month

September 28, 2020
It’s hard to believe it’s almost October—but we’ve got a few days to go. We start the week with National Sickle Cell Awareness Month news and resources, as well as a peek inside an innovative food biotech company, in around 850 words, just over 4 minutes. For our…

It’s hard to believe it’s almost October—but we’ve got a few days to go. We start the week with National Sickle Cell Awareness Month news and resources, as well as a peek inside an innovative food biotech company, in around 850 words, just over 4 minutes. For our readers celebrating Yom Kippur, we wish you an easy and meaningful fast.

ICYMI: We announced the BIO Patient and Health Advocacy Digital Summit keynote speaker: David Wasserman, U.S. House Editor and Senior Election Analyst at The Cook Political Report. He’ll speak just days before the election—so you won’t want to miss his insights. Get the details and register.


It’s National Sickle Cell Awareness Month

What is sickle cell disease?

September is National Sickle Cell Awareness Month, bringing attention to the need for more research into the disease and possible cures. Here’s what you need to know before the month comes to an end.

What is sickle cell disease? It’s an inherited, lifelong disease in which the body makes “sickle-shaped” red blood cells that can block blood flow, causing pain, organ damage, infection, and other serious complications, as the My Three Sicklers Sickle Cell Foundation explains.

It disproportionately affects African Americans. The vast majority of sickle cell patients in the United States are Black or African American, with 1 in 13 born with the sickle cell trait, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

And COVID-19 has hit these patients particularly hard, STAT News reported: “Not only did the pandemic temporarily stop clinical trials and the introduction of new drugs, it made accessing care for sickle cell—which can be challenging even in ordinary times—far more difficult. Because sickle cell damages the spleen, people with the disease are considered immunocompromised and at high risk for serious complications from COVID-19.” 

But there’s hope—thanks to biotechnology. Last November, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved BIO member Global Blood Therapeutics’ (GBT) Oxbryta, the first drug that attacks the underlying cause of sickle cell disease.  

GBT credits their success to a majority-minority workforce—a reminder of why it’s so important for biotech company leaders and employees to be representative of the patients they serve.  

But there’s still much work to be done to end racial disparities in health care and in the biotech industry. We’ve seen this play out right now, as African Americans are also disproportionately affected by COVID-19 primarily due to long-term disparities in access to health care and exposure to risk. This is why we launched the BIOEquality Agenda last month.

Learn more about sickle cell disease by listening to the sickle cell episode of the I AM BIO Podcast, which featured GBT CEO Dr. Ted Love and Mapillar Dahn, Founder of the My Three Sicklers Sickle Cell Foundation, who has three daughters born with the disease. 

On November 12, Dr. Ted Love will give the keynote speech at the UC San Diego (UCSD) Bioengineering Breakfast with Industry. The 26th annual event will connect UCSD graduate students and members of the biotech industry virtually. Click here for details and registration.


More Health Care News:

Bloomberg: Early COVID treatments could be a ‘bridge’ to vaccine
“Antibody-based medications, other blood products from recovered patients, and antivirals are being investigated as early treatments, Fauci said.” 

Newsy: Newsy-Ipsos poll finds 34% not interested in getting COVID-19 vaccine
“It's slightly unfair to ask people whether they would take something that they don't know anything about. So, until we have the data on the actual vaccines, I think people are reacting to a lot of different things besides the vaccine itself,” said Phyllis Arthur, BIO’s VP of Infectious Disease Policy.


A peek inside this innovative food biotech’s new HQ

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue at Benson Hill grand opening
Image: Benson Hill

Last week, BIO member Benson Hill opened a new high-tech “home for the future of food.” Take a look inside—and see what U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue had to say about it. 

Benson Hill is an agricultural biotech company combining data science and machine learning with biology and genetics to unlock healthier, more flavorful, and more sustainable food.

Their CropOS™ platform is “like GPS for plant scientists and breeders,” allowing them to use data and AI to accelerate breeding with “greater precision and fewer breeding cycles.”

The company's new St. Louis HQ brings food science, data science, and plant science “under one roof to deliver consumer-relevant products in partnership with farmers,” according to the press release.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue toured the facility and discussed how companies like Benson Hill can contribute to USDA’s Agriculture Innovation Agenda (AIA), to ensure the “continued success of American farmers, ranchers, producers, and foresters in the face of future challenges.”

What they’re saying: “Food is health—and we think we can go farther through the combination of data science joining with advanced genetics. I’m intrigued by what Benson Hill is doing to link production and consumption in a transparent way,” said Secretary Perdue.

Check out the virtual tour and discussions on how to build a better food system at

Want to know more about USDA’s Agriculture Innovation Agenda? Watch Secretary Perdue’s BIO IMPACT Digital session (and more!) at Best of BIO.


More Agriculture & Environment News: 

Wired: Can a genetically modified bug combat a global farm plague?
Oxitec and its multinational partner Bayer announced [on September 24] that they have developed a fall armyworm that has a self-limiting gene introduced into the male of the species…The company’s goal is to reduce the population of this kind of worm without pesticides.”

36 days until the election. Visit to get ready.
BIO Beltway Report

President Trump’s Monday: Expect his tax returns to dominate the chatter ahead of tomorrow’s presidential debate. Today, he’s scheduled to provide an update on national coronavirus testing strategy at 2 PM ET.

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: ICYMI, Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett for RBG’s Supreme Court seat. Democrats “blasted” the choice due to the possible impact on the Affordable Care Act, explained Reuters.

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