A step toward a stronger bioeconomy

May 21, 2020
Even with #WFH, there’s still a lot happening on Capitol Hill—and yesterday, a Senate Committee took an important step forward for the bioeconomy. More on that, plus an update from Jim on how the SEC is providing relief to small biotechs on the COVID-19 frontlines, in…

Even with #WFH, there’s still a lot happening on Capitol Hill—and yesterday, a Senate Committee took an important step forward for the bioeconomy. More on that, plus an update from Jim on how the SEC is providing relief to small biotechs on the COVID-19 frontlines, in around 720 words, under 4 minutes.

A step toward a stronger bioeconomy

Yesterday, a Senate Committee advanced important, bipartisan legislation that will strengthen the U.S. bioeconomy at a time we need it the most.

The news: During an executive session yesterday, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee agreed to the Bioeconomy Research and Development Act of 2020 (S. 3734), bringing it one step closer to a floor vote. 

The bill would foster better coordination within the federal government to support engineering biology and synthetic biology technologies by establishing an initiative to advance R&D, advanced biomanufacturing, develop the future bioeconomy workforce, and support research in related ethical, legal, environmental, safety, security, and societal issues. It would also establish an interagency coordination committee. (It’s the companion bill to the Engineering Biology Research and Development Act of 2019 (H.R. 4373), which passed the House in December.) 

At BIO’s request, cosponsor Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) expanded the list of agencies to participate in the interagency committee—and we consider the bill to be an improvement from the version put forward in the previous Congress.

What they’re saying: “In addition to helping scientists develop a vaccine to protect Americans from coronavirus, engineering biology research touches everything from our food, to our environment, to our health care. Strengthening and coordinating our nation’s research initiatives will not only make us safer, but it will bolster our economy and put the United States at the forefront of global research leadership,” said Sen. Gillibrand

What they’re saying, part 2: “Amid the coronavirus pandemic, it is more important now than ever that we invest in engineering biology research to help scientists working to develop a vaccine, while also establishing a legal framework to safeguard the research,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), another cosponsor

The next steps: BIO will continue to work with cosponsors to get the bill through the Senate. 

Read more about the bill and its bipartisan support.


More Agriculture & Environment News: 

The Guardian: The end of plastic? New plant-based bottles will degrade in a year
“Carlsberg and Coca-Cola back pioneering project to make ‘all-plant’ drinks bottles,” made of cardboard with a plant-based plastic lining. 

The New York Times: In the shadows of America’s smokestacks, virus is one more deadly risk
“Nationwide, low-income communities of color...are exposed to significantly higher levels of pollution, studies have found, and also see higher levels of lung disease and other ailments. Now, scientists are racing to understand if long-term exposure to air pollution plays a role in the coronavirus crisis, particularly since minorities are disproportionately dying.”

1 MINUTE WITH MICHELLE: How will you foster collaboration to advance science?
1 Minute with Michelle: How will you foster collaboration to advance science?

SEC provides relief to small biotechs in the midst of the COVID-19 fight

Buried under the coronavirus headlines was an important announcement by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) providing relief from costly regulatory requirements for small public companies, many of which are working to find COVID-19 solutions, writes BIO President and CEO Jim Greenwood on LinkedIn

Many biopharmaceutical companies are small businesses with little or no revenue—using private financing and equity markets to fund R&D. 

In fact, emerging biotech companies are responsible for an estimated 70 percent of all clinical trials underway. 

But these small companies have faced significant regulatory costs—such as compliance with Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which requires public companies to disclose internal controls they have in place over financial reporting. 

These rules are important for many larger, more complex businesses—but they harm startups with no revenue by reducing market capitalizations and increasing audit fees, forcing companies to exit public markets and reduce R&D investments.

Under the new rules, small businesses are exempt from these costly and unnecessary requirements, allowing them to focus resources on hiring staff, investing in technology, or bolstering participation in clinical trials—a win for the industry, but most of all, a win for patients. 

Read the whole thing.


More Health Care News:

Forbes: The man betting $1 billion that Pfizer can deliver a vaccine by this fall
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla says a vaccine in 2021 is “not good enough.”

Reuters: U.S. secures 300 million doses of potential AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine
“The United States has secured almost a third of AstraZeneca’s one billion possible COVID-19 vaccine doses by pledging up to $1.2 billion, as the world’s biggest powers scramble for medicinal supplies to get their economies back to work.”

The New York Times: A New Entry in the Race for a Coronavirus Vaccine: Hope
“In labs around the world, there is now cautious optimism that a coronavirus vaccine, and perhaps more than one, will be ready sometime next year.”

BIO Beltway Report

President Trump’s Thursday: He’s heading to Michigan to tour two Ford plants and meet with African American leaders. 

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: The Senate’s in session—and one Senator is trying to block his colleagues from leaving Washington for the scheduled Memorial Day recess until they pass coronavirus relief, reports POLITICO. In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will allow the House to vote by proxy and hold hearings virtually next week.

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