The role of biofuels in reducing coronavirus deaths

March 19, 2020
Here’s an important reminder as we head into Thursday: While we know older adults and people with underlying illnesses face the highest risk of complications and death from COVID-19, new numbers show younger adults are getting seriously ill, too. So, no matter your age…

Here’s an important reminder as we head into Thursday: While we know older adults and people with underlying illnesses face the highest risk of complications and death from COVID-19, new numbers show younger adults are getting seriously ill, too. So, no matter your age or how you feel today, it’s important to keep up the social distancing, for others and for yourself. We’re all in this together. 

Today, we’re looking at more coronavirus news, including the role of air quality and low-carbon fuels in reducing deaths, as well as another vaccine getting close to clinical trials, in about 900 words, or 4 minutes, 20 seconds.

The role of biofuels in reducing coronavirus deaths

Scientists think air pollution is likely to increase complications and mortality rates of COVID-19—making this is yet another area where biotech can help.

While there are no studies specifically examining this (yet), experts say damage to lungs from poor air quality or smoke inhalation “may increase the risk of respiratory tract infections from viruses such as the novel coronavirus. Poor air can also cause lung inflammation that could worsen the symptoms of COVID-19,” reports The Washington Post.

Others point specifically to air pollution from fossil fuels. “Emissions from petrol and diesel engines were still at ‘dangerous’ levels that could imperil the most vulnerable during this and future pandemics, said the European Respiratory Society (EPS),” because patients with “chronic lung and heart conditions caused or worsened by long-term exposure to air pollution are less able to fight off lung infections and more likely to die,” reports The Star Malaysia.

During the 2003 SARS epidemic, “patients in regions with moderate air pollution levels were 84 percent more likely to die than those in regions with low air pollution,” continues The Star

And we’re seeing evidence this could be the case in Northern Italy, a COVID-19 hotspot, which has “particularly high levels of PM10—microscopic particles of pollution due largely to road traffic.”

But low-carbon fuel standards may help. The American Lung Association and Environmental Defense Fund found these standards, combined with statewide carbon pollution limits, have “helped avoid nearly 90,000 cases of respiratory symptoms, 8,000 cases of asthma-related health issues, and 15,000 lost work days,” says the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The bottom line? There’s a role for everyone in the biotech industry. While many companies are working hard on R&D for COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics, others continue to develop and bring to market innovative, low-carbon biofuels and support low-carbon fuel standards nationwide, which are not only good for the environment but might also save lives.


More Agriculture & Environment News:

POLITICO: Virus pushes U.S.-Chinese relationship toward fracture
“The fallout from the global pandemic threatens the recent U.S.-Chinese trade deal and could undermine future global stability given the importance of both countries to international trade.”

SeedWorld: The discovery of a new gene that ‘supervises’ strawberry ripening
“[T]he newly described gene appears suddenly when ripening is going to start and it makes sure that only the ripening genes are activated (up to 600 different ones), which will make the fruit bear aromas, colors and tastes that will make it appealing to be eaten and have its seeds spread.”


Inovio’s coronavirus vaccine is almost ready for testing

Dozens of biotech companies are seriously researching COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics—including BIO member Inovio Pharmaceuticals, which is close to a clinical trial of a vaccine. ABC in Denver got a look at what’s happening in the company's lab.


Inovio Pharmaceuticals uses DNA technology to create medicine that activates a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer and infectious disease. 

The San Diego-based company has experience in vaccines, and made significant progress on vaccines for Zika, Ebola, and now, the coronavirus.

3 hours—that’s all the time it took for them to develop a COVID-19 vaccine after receiving the genetic code.

And they hope to begin a clinical trial next month.

But funding is essential. As cases of Zika waned, vaccine research funding dried up, so it never got to the clinical trial phase. We need to ensure the COVID-19 research continues, to tackle this coronavirus or whatever virus comes next.

Phyllis’ Philosophy: We should think of this as capability building, capacity building and the going all the way through the process. We have to finish that because every one of those processes and every one of those outbreaks is a learning for the next one. And we go faster and we're better. [T]hat's actually the cornerstone of preparedness and response. – Phyllis Arthur, BIO's VP of Infectious Disease & Diagnostics Policy


More Health Care News: 

BioPharma Dive: FDA maps out plan for trials as coronavirus starts to threaten drug research
“The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday issued new guidance on how to run clinical trials during the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.” 

STAT: Anticipating ‘shelter-in-place’ orders across the country, trade groups push for exceptions for biopharma employees
“While biopharma companies already have many of their employees working from home, industry leaders say their businesses have vital functions that require people in person, such as workers operating manufacturing plants, feeding lab animals, and maintaining vital cell lines. That group includes not only employees working on drugs and vaccines for the coronavirus and the disease it causes, but also those dedicated to developing and manufacturing medicines for other conditions.” 

The Hill: Trump invokes Defense Production Act as coronavirus response
The Defense Production Act (DPA) would allow the administration to force American industry to manufacture medical supplies.

BIO Beltway Report

President Trump’s Thursday: Meetings with FEMA and U.S. Governors. The Coronavirus Task Force is scheduled to hold a press briefing at 11am ET.

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: The Senate passed the coronavirus package yesterday, and continues work on another package to provide aid to the airline industry and direct payments to U.S. citizens, while House Democrats work on similar legislation. Meanwhile, the first two Members of Congress have tested positive for the coronavirus.

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