Stand up for science, save the pigs

September 24, 2020
Today: what you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine race, African swine fever, and legislation regarding the Strategic National Stockpile (all the way at the end). Here are 800 words, 4 minutes. P.S. Hot off the heels of a successful BIO IMPACT Digital, we have…
BIO

Today: what you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine race, African swine fever, and legislation regarding the Strategic National Stockpile (all the way at the end). Here are 800 words, 4 minutes.

P.S. Hot off the heels of a successful BIO IMPACT Digital, we have news about the BIO Patient & Health Advocacy Digital Summit, taking place October 28-29, 2020. Learn more.

It’s 7 AM on the coronavirus vaccine clock

USA Today updated their coronavirus vaccine clock—and it’s clear science is the key to keep things ticking along. 

As context, more vaccine news this week: BIO member Johnson & Johnson announced that they’ve started the global phase 3 trial of Janssen’s single-dose vaccine candidate, following phase 1/2 studies that demonstrated safety and immunogenicity.

It’s one of several candidates in phase 3—alongside BIO members Moderna and Pfizer. (Check out BIO’s COVID-19 pipeline tracker to learn more.

So, if the start of the pandemic is “midnight” and a return to normal is “noon,” where are we now? According to experts who spoke to USA Today, we’re at 7 AM, with widespread clinical trials underway and manufacturing beginning in preparation for at least one candidate being approved.

This shows steady progress—“an hour closer to noon than last month but still just a little more than halfway to the goal.”

Yeah, it's fast—but you can be assured the scientists involved are committed to science and safety. “FDA will not authorize or approve a vaccine we won’t be confident in giving to our families,” Food & Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn told the Senate HELP Committee yesterday. “I will fight for science…I will fight for the integrity of the agency, and I will put the interests of the American people before anything else.”

Dr. Michelle’s Diagnosis: Trusting science—and the scientific process—is the best way out of this pandemic. – BIO President and CEO Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath 

Read BIO’s pledge to uphold the integrity, transparency, and objective assessment of COVID-19 data.

 
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Save the pigs

African swine fever is surging around the world, putting animals and the agriculture industry at great risk. The biotech industry has developed solutions that could put a stop to the deadly disease—but we need to modernize animal biotech regulation in order for it to have an impact.

Germany has confirmed 29 cases of African swine fever in wild boars, reports Reuters

No farm animals have been infected (yet), according to Germany’s federal agriculture ministry—but it’s risky, because “more cases in wild boars are to be expected as the animals move around in groups and the disease is easily transferable.” 

Germany’s not the only country battling the disease. In July, African swine fever was “surging in some parts of southern China following heavy rains,” reported Reuters, causing China’s hog herd to shrink by 180 million pigs (40%). 

It doesn’t affect human health, but it’s fatal for pigs—and the agriculture industry. A recent Iowa State University study estimated that an African swine fever outbreak in the United States could cost $50 billion.  

Genetic innovation could help prevent and respond to infectious disease, by making pigs resistant to African swine fever, as just one example

But animal biotech regulation needs modernization. The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) current regulatory structure puts an entirely new generation of technology at risk, and threatens to drive research, jobs, and innovation overseas. 

What should we do? BIO has called for two things: establishment of a national One Health framework to eliminate the barriers between human, animal, and environmental health strategies, and legislation directing the FDA and Agriculture Department to work together to streamline oversight of animal biotech innovation.   

Read more about how One Health can help us prevent and respond to zoonotic disease outbreaks—like African swine fever, and COVID-19.

 
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I am BIO: Meet the Ag & Environment Innovators

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This week, the inaugural BIO IMPACT Digital brought together the agriculture and environment biotech industry for the latest insights and networking.

This side of the industry is driving innovations that will clean up air pollution, reduce waste, and improve the nutrition and resiliency of our food supply.

From Amyris using synbio to make sustainable sanitizers, to Acceligen finding ways to help animals survive in changing climates, to  a young woman working to improve soil health, biotech innovators are working hard to feed, fuel, and heal the world.

Visit www.bio.org/iambio to learn more and share your story!



 
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President Trump’s Thursday: After paying respects to RBG at the Supreme Court, he’ll head to Charlotte, NC, where he’ll speak about health care, then Jacksonville, FL, for a campaign rally.

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: NPR recaps yesterday’s Senate HELP Committee hearing on vaccines, with Drs. Fauci, Giroir, Hahn, and Redfield. Today, Senate Banking will hold a hearing on the CARES Act.

Earlier this week, the Strengthening America’s Strategic National Stockpile Act (H.R. 7574) passed the House with bipartisan support. The bill includes:

  • $3.5 billion to states to expand or maintain strategic stockpiles (SNS)
  • $705 million in funding for the SNS (up from $610 million)
  • $500 million for supply chain improvements

It would also enhance the medical supply chain and establish and maintain domestic reserves of critical medical supplies by partnering with industry to increase the stockpile and diversify geography of the supply chain with domestic manufacturing.  

BIO supports the aims to improve the stockpile through maintenance and flexibility. This, in coordination with additional oversight, will lead to a better managed, more transparent stockpile. While we think there should be more funding beyond what the bill provides, we support the additional appropriations and think it’s an improvement. We’ll be having conversations with the Senate to ensure something is included in any potential end-of-year package.

 
 
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40 days until election day. Visit www.bio.org/vote to learn more.