The other pandemic

July 13, 2020
Following the launch of the AMR Action Fund last week, we have a timely episode of the I AM BIO Podcast featuring an antibiotic innovator on what needs to happen in order for us to beat antimicrobial resistance. We also take a look at another biotech innovator…

Following the launch of the AMR Action Fund last week, we have a timely episode of the I AM BIO Podcast featuring an antibiotic innovator on what needs to happen in order for us to beat antimicrobial resistance. We also take a look at another biotech innovator delivering clean fuels and clean jobs to the United States. Here are 787 words, just under 4 minutes.

The other pandemic

Biotech has come together in an unprecedented way to develop treatments and vaccines for COVID-19. But there’s another deadly pandemic in our midst—one that's making it even more difficult for doctors to treat coronavirus patients. In today’s episode of the I AM BIO Podcast, host Jim Greenwood explores our big superbug problem, and what we can do about it.

Superbugs come about when microbes become resistant to existing antibiotics—also known as antimicrobial resistance, or AMR. 

AMR affects 3 million people in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—and these superbugs are expected to kill more people annually than cancer by 2050. 

“Bugs always win,” said Dr. Evan Loh, CEO of Paratek, which commercialized NUZYRA, a new antibiotic to treat pneumonia. “We have to stay ahead of the innovation curve and bringing new research and development opportunities forward in order to provide these new antibiotics. But I think what’s really happened over the last 20+ years, I think we’ve really fallen behind the innovation curve.”

What's the problem? The “antiquated reimbursement system” disincentivizes research, development, and use of new antibotics, explained Dr. Loh. “There needs to be potentially some legislative or regulatory changes that could actually create the right incentives to allow doctors to have the choice to use the best antibiotic for the right patient at the right time.” 

But isn’t COVID-19 a bigger priority? People hospitalized with COVID-19 are susceptible to dangerous secondary bacterial infections like bacterial pneumonia. As many as 50% of patients with such infections have died—showing the importance of developing new antibiotics as well as COVID-specific treatments.

And COVID-19 is shining a light on the need for pandemic preparedness. “This COVID pandemic has highlighted the gaps in pandemic preparedness,” said Dr. Loh. “And I think it’ll go beyond just the bioterrorism space. It’ll go on to, I think, more bread-and-butter pandemic preparedness needs for bacteria-resistant pathogens, as well as other viral infections.” 

So, what can we do about it? As we reported last week, 20+ leading biopharmas (including many BIO members) announced the launch of the AMR Action Fund, a $1 billion initiative to bring new antibiotics to patients by the end of the decade. 

Listen to the whole thing to learn more about AMR—and how Paratek’s NUZYRA helped Dr. Loh’s 93-year-old father at the height of the COVID-19 crisis—at or wherever you get your podcast fix, including Apple, Google, and Spotify.


More Health Care News:

USA Today: New data suggests the experimental drug Remdesivir can shorten how long people are sick
“Gilead Sciences, Inc…revealed new data Friday about nearly 400 patients in its late-stage clinical trial. According to the new results, 74% of patients treated with remdesivir had recovered by their 14th day of hospitalization, compared to 59% of those who did not get the drug.” 



A lot of flights are grounded during the pandemic, but innovation’s not—and in fact, one company just took a big step in ensuring we can have cleaner flights when the time comes to fly again.

Neste delivered the first batch of sustainable aviation fuel to San Francisco International Airport (SFO). The fuel is made from “sustainably sourced, 100 percent renewable waste and residue materials, like used cooking oil or animal fats,” reports the company.

What the SAF? Sustainable aviation fuel like Neste’s has been shown to reduce the carbon footprint of aviation fuel by up to 80% over their full lifecycle.  

It reduces emissions. Neste’s SFO SAF “will deliver roughly the same greenhouse gas emissions reductions as taking 1,200 flights between SFO and NYC on an A320 or 737 out of service,” they say. 

And it creates jobs, too. The fuel was processed in Texas and transported to California by a Florida-based logistics and management company—which “demonstrates the many potential economic benefits of a thriving biofuel industry in the United States,” explains Neste. 

This is another example of how biotech can solve our biggest problems, from cleaning up air pollution (and in turn improving human health) to boosting rural economies by creating new clean jobs in biofuel manufacturing and R&D. 

And this is why BIO will continue to work to ensure SAF can help clean up emissions and power economic opportunity—two goals which remain critically important as COVID-19 wreaks havoc on public health and the economy.

BIO Beltway Report

President Trump’s Monday: After spending the weekend at Trump National Golf Club in Virginia, today he’s having lunch with the veep then holding a roundtable with people “positively impacted by law enforcement.”   

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: Expect more work this week on the next coronavirus package, which could top $1 trillion. Today, House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border Security, Facilitation, & Operations will hold a virtual business meeting on ICE contractors’ response to COVID-19.

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