The speed of science

October 20, 2020
Election Day is officially two weeks away. If you still need to figure out a voting plan or read up on the candidates in your state races, visit Biotech Votes. Today, we catch up on the latest COVID-19 vaccine news and get insights on the future of CRISPR, in 685…
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Election Day is officially two weeks away. If you still need to figure out a voting plan or read up on the candidates in your state races, visit Biotech Votes.

Today, we catch up on the latest COVID-19 vaccine news and get insights on the future of CRISPR, in 685 words, or 3 minutes, 30 seconds.

 

The speed of science

 
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COVID-19 infection rates continue to exceed 50-60K per day in the United States—but there are many reasons to hope a vaccine will be available soon. BIO President and CEO Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath joined CNN to discuss the latest news and timelines.

To catch you up: Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said the company could apply for emergency use authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine by the third week of November, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said there may be a "limited supply” of vaccines available by the end of the year

Do we think this timeline is realistic? “We certainly do, in terms of getting a vaccine approved,” said Dr. Michelle, predicting “wide public use” by the spring of 2021.

What about recent pauses in trials? “This is par for the course for biomedical research. You do a scientific experiment because you do not yet know the answer, and clinical trials are scientific experiments,” she continued. “It’s not unexpected for us to see occasional adverse events—things that make us pause and make sure that we’re on the right track before we go forward.” 

But, really, how are things moving so quickly? “The speed is coming from the fact that we have decades now of scientific experience helping us in this development of a COVID vaccine.”

Watch:

 
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“We are operating at the speed of science,” said Pfizer’s Albert Bourla, explaining the company will only seek authorization if the vaccine is proven to be safe, effective in preventing COVID-19, and able to be “consistently manufactured at the highest quality standards.” 

Want to know more about the 740+ coronavirus programs in the pipeline? Check out BIO’s COVID-19 Therapeutic Development Tracker.

ICYMI: During BIO Investor Forum Digital, Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni, Acting Director of FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), talked about the difference between “approval” and “emergency use authorization.” Read our blog post.

 

More Health Care News: 

USA Today: States finalize their COVID-19 vaccine distribution plans
"On Friday state public health departments submitted vaccination distribution plans to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The plans were detailed as they could be given the many things that are still unknown."

 
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What’s next for CRISPR?

 
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Drs. Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier recently won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for discovering CRISPR. Below are highlights from Dr. Doudna’s recent interview with Future Human about what’s next for the technology, including regulations and amazing applications.

Remind me—what’s CRISPR? It’s gene editing technology that allows scientists to make small, precise edits to an organism’s own genome. 

If you want to get more technical about it… “Short for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, CRISPR is actually a naturally occurring bacterial immune system. When viruses attack bacteria, bacteria in turn grab snippets of genetic material from their viral invaders and incorporate these bits into their own DNA. This helps bacteria recognize viruses later on and thwart future invaders. Bacteria do this by producing an RNA molecule that acts as a guide, which cuts up the viral genome,” says Future Human.

Agriculture is “likely to be the area where we’ll see a broader impact in the near term,” she said, on things like “making plants that have genetic changes that can enable things like better crop yield, resistance to drought, higher levels of nutritional value." 

And it could revolutionize health diagnostics. Dr. Doudna’s company Mammoth Biosciences (BIO member!) is working on a rapid CRISPR-based COVID-19 test, which it’s “rolling out…to a few partner labs for initial beta testing in November,” she added. 

Geeking out over CRISPR? Read the whole interview. 

Learn more about what agriculture and environment companies are doing to fight COVID-19.

 
 
 
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President Trump’s Tuesday: During a campaign call that was leaked yesterday, he called NIH’s Dr. Anthony Fauci and other health officials “idiots,” reports CNN. Today, after filming a town hall for Sinclair Broadcasting, he will head to Erie, PA, for a campaign rally.

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: Starting at noon ET, House Ways & Means will hold a hearing, Maximizing Health Coverage Enrollment Amidst Administration Sabotage, which we expect will take aim at the Trump administration’s approach to health coverage in general—and specifically, the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Meanwhile “the Senate is on track to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court by next Monday, charging toward a rare weekend session as Republicans push past procedural steps to install President Donald Trump’s pick before Election Day,” reports the AP.

 
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