The small biotech with big COVID-19 news

August 17, 2020
We have breaking news from BIO member Novavax—and a well-timed new episode of the I AM BIO Podcast featuring a sit-down with the company’s CEO. More on that, plus how gene editing can solve our biggest food challenges and a look ahead at the DNC, in around 750 words, 3…

We have breaking news from BIO member Novavax—and a well-timed new episode of the I AM BIO Podcast featuring a sit-down with the company’s CEO. More on that, plus how gene editing can solve our biggest food challenges and a look ahead at the DNC, in around 750 words, 3 minutes, 45 seconds.

The small biotech with big COVID-19 news

Breaking: BIO member Novavax launched the phase 2b clinical trial of its COVID-19 vaccine, bringing it one step closer to approval. On the latest (very timely!) episode of the I AM BIO Podcast, BIO’s Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath sat down with Novavax President and CEO Stan Erck to talk about their promising technology.

Meet Novavax. The small biotech based in Gaithersburg, Maryland, just outside D.C., made progress on vaccines for other respiratory coronaviruses (SARS and MERS) and has taken a promising new flu vaccine to phase 3 trials. 

Using the same platform and adjuvant and building upon previous coronavirus research, Novavax developed a protein-based COVID-19 vaccine that seems to “stimulate high quantities of neutralizing antibodies in mice,” which should translate well to humans. 

Novavax received a $1.6 billion grant from Operation Warp Speed, to help launch a phase 3 trial and scale up production. CEPI and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have put hundreds of millions behind the technology, too.

So, will it work? “We in the industry all believe that a vaccine will be the solution, and we think coronavirus can be conquered with a vaccine. Now, can we make enough of it? Can we make it fast enough?” asked Erck.

And they’re expecting to get some answers this fall—but the public should not be concerned about the speed. “Nobody’s trying to cut corners in safety or data generation,” he concluded. “All we’re trying to do is cut bureaucracy down so that we can do things faster.” 

Listen to the whole thing to learn more about the science behind Novavax’s vaccine platform, and where and how they’re scaling up manufacturing.

Listen at or your favorite podcast platform, including Apple, Google, or Spotify.


More Health Care News:

The Wall Street Journal: A deadly coronavirus was inevitable. Why was no one ready?
“Scientists warned of a pandemic for decades, yet when COVID-19 arrived, the world had few resources and little understanding.” 


The world is hungry for gene-edited foods

An insightful article in ProgressiveGrocer takes a look at some of the challenges facing the global food supply and how biotechnology could help solve them—if we can remove the barriers.

Two stats sum up the world’s biggest food challenges: “Just one in 10 adults meets the federal fruit or vegetable recommendations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the human population is expected to hit 10 billion by 2050, creating challenges of how to sustainably feed this many people,” says ProgressiveGrocer.

Biotechnology could help solve both—through gene editing, or “manipulating the genetic material of plants in a way that could happen naturally,” as ProgressiveGrocer puts it

Gene editing can make food healthier and taste better, by removing seeds and pits from fruit, making leafy greens less bitter, and increasing the protein (and reducing the carbs) in soy, as a few examples. 

Bigger picture, it can also make our food supply more sustainable—and help solve climate change. “For each one million metric tons of beef that you replace with a plant-based meat product, it’s like taking 5 million cars off the road,” said Lloyd Kunimoto, President and CEO of Amfora, which is developing high-protein soy for use in plant-based meat substitutes.

Unfortunately, innovations aren’t getting to grocery shelves fast enough—due to misinformation about gene-edited crops and policy needing to catch up to the science.

Modernized plant biotech regulations are “opening doors,” as ProgressiveGrocer says. (Here’s what we had to say about them.)

But policy still needs to catch up. This is why we continue our work on policies that champion the development and growth of the bioeconomy and biotech innovations, like the Growing Climate Solutions Act, as well as regulation that supports the development of powerful tools like gene editing and animal biotech to support farmers and rural economies AND help feed the world.

Learn more about why we need modernized plant biotech regulations.

BIO Beltway Report

President Trump’s Monday: He's heading to Minnesota to deliver remarks on jobs and the economy. 

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: The Democratic National Convention begins virtually today, with Michelle Obama and Sen. Bernie Sanders headlining this evening. (Here’s a handy guide on who’s speaking and how to watch.) When the convention concludes, Speaker Pelosi is expected to call the House back from recess to vote on legislation that would prohibit changes to the U.S. Postal Service, according to CNBC.

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