Out of the bat cave, into the virus fire

May 1, 2020
Happy Friday. In case you missed it, Gilead Chairman and CEO Daniel O’Day joined NBC’s Savanah Guthrie on TODAY to discuss the latest development with the company’s experimental treatment remdesivir. As Guthrie notes during the interview, “We are in the midst of a…

Happy Friday. In case you missed it, Gilead Chairman and CEO Daniel O’Day joined NBC’s Savanah Guthrie on TODAY to discuss the latest development with the company’s experimental treatment remdesivir. As Guthrie notes during the interview, “We are in the midst of a pandemic and humanity is literally depending on companies like yours.” Watch the segment here.

We’re taking you into the weekend with a look at why it’s more important than ever to continue research into zoonotic diseases—and what it will take to get us back to work and normal life after the pandemic. Here are 780 words, or 4 minutes, to start your weekend.

Out of the bat cave, into the virus fire

The news that the federal government has cut funding for research into bat-derived diseases like the novel coronavirus is alarming to scientists studying the links between wild animals and human health. But as the COVID-19 pandemic shows, this research is more important than ever.

The Trump administration cut funding for the EcoHealth Alliance, which has been studying how coronaviruses spread from bats to humans, POLITICO reported.

Researchers say the decision to cut the long-standing program is “counterproductive,” sets “a horrible precedent,” and is possibly illegal political interference, according to Science Magazine

We know this research is critically important, so we can get a handle on other viruses hanging out in bats—before they become pandemics, too. (EcoHealth Alliance’s Dr. William Karesh talked about this in a recent episode of the I AM BIO Podcast.)

And it’s equally important to continue studying zoonotic diseases from mosquitoes, monkeys, and birds, among other animals, because we have more and more contact with wild animals—and their diseases—as humans disrupt animals’ natural habitats. 

Biotech can help on all fronts—from researching the origins of diseases before they touch humans, to finding ways to genetically modify animals like mosquitoes so we can live in harmony with them in nature without harm, as BIO’s Cornelia Poku explained in a recent blog post

It all comes back to One Health, and the need for a regulatory structure that fosters research on links between human, animal, and environmental health, allowing us to foresee and prevent zoonotic disease tragedies such as COVID-19.

Learn more about how we can stop future outbreaks with One Health.


More Agriculture & Environment News:

Biofuels International: COVID-19 has been a ‘knockout blow’ to biofuels industry in US
“Two more bioethanol plants in Iowa and Nebraska are to close as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to hit the biofuels industry.”


So, how DO we get people back to work?

BIO President and CEO Jim Greenwood joined the Intercontinental Exchange’s podcast Inside the ICE House, home of the New York Stock Exchange, to talk about how the biotech industry’s working hard to get us back to normal life, among other topics.

A major topic of the conversation was getting back to work—and how we can keep people safe while avoiding irrevocable damage to the economy.

We need to be careful about the second wave. “If we foolishly run out and stop our social distancing and revert to old, normal behavior, the second wave will be worse than the first," Jim said. 

But, eventually, we need to “emerge from our homes and go back to the workplace,” he continued, especially since lockdown and economic turmoil can lead to other health risks, like depression, addiction, and suicide. 

Antibody testing will be key, “to find out who has been infected and whether this confers immunity.” 

Therapeutics will be essential, too, to minimize symptoms and impede the ability of the virus to replicate until we have a vaccine. 

The biotech industry is working hard on ALL of these solutions, and there are hundreds of projects in process in what Jim called “an unprecedented effort by the whole biopharmaceutical industry to go after this virus, throw everything we have at it.”

Catch the whole conversation to learn how BIO is helping companies get access to BARDA funding and keeping Members of Congress informed about the industry’s work, what Congress should do to help small biotechs, and why some heroes wear lab coats

Listen on IE’s website or Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, and most other podcast destinations.


More Health Care News: 

The New York Times: Find a vaccine. Next: produce 300 million vials of it.
“Scaling up the manufacturing of syringes and other medical products required to deliver a vaccine to millions of Americans will be just as important as the vaccine itself.” 

The Wall Street Journal: Gilead to expand manufacturing of COVID-19 drug remdesivir
“The company said on Thursday it expects more than 140,000 treatment courses of the drug to be made by the end of May. Gilead spent about $50 million on research and development related to the drug in the first quarter, or about 4.5% of its total R&D spend.”

BIO Beltway Report

President Trump’s Friday: He will have a ceremony to recognize the heroism of those working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s also reportedly crafting retaliatory actions against China to make them pay for the outbreak, according to The Washington Post. New Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany is scheduled to hold a press briefing at 2 PM ET. 

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: As the Senate prepares to return to Washington next week, the Capitol physician says there is not capacity to test all 100 Senators for COVID-19. Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the House may return in two weeks.

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