United States’ drug development leadership is under attack

February 26, 2020
Last night, the Democratic presidential candidates DID talk about health care during the debate in South Carolina—and specifically called out President Trump for his coronavirus response. At least they agree on something, right? What do you think about the presidential…

Last night, the Democratic presidential candidates DID talk about health care during the debate in South Carolina—and specifically called out President Trump for his coronavirus response. At least they agree on something, right? What do you think about the presidential race and the coronavirus response? Tweet us your takes at @IAmBiotech.

Today, we have news about BIO member Cargill launching plant-based “meat” and an important opinion piece on how policy could harm drug innovation in the United States, in about 825 words, or 4 minutes.

The United States’ drug development leadership is under attack

No, not by the coronavirus—by policy. The United States has been the world leader in drug development and innovation for 30 years, writes Flagship Pioneering's Dr. Michael Rosenblatt in International Business Times, but this status is under attack by misguided policies with potential to change the structure of the drug development ecosystem and marketplace

The United States originates 2 in 3 drugs today, says Dr. Michael Rosenblatt, chief medical officer of life sciences VC firm Flagship Pioneering and former chief medical officer of BIO member Merck, in a must-read opinion piece.

Despite the fact the R&D process is long and risky, only 12% of drugs ever enter Phase I clinical trials. 

How has the U.S. biopharma industry been so successful? Due to “smart policies that, for decades, have nurtured a strong public-private ecosystem for drug discovery” and the structure of the drug marketplace allowing drug companies to recoup their investment in R&D. 

The role of biopharmaceutical companies is key. “Generally, researchers' discoveries have no immediate or obvious medical application. But occasionally, scientists discover something with therapeutic potential. When that happens, a biopharmaceutical company—often a small start-up—typically begins investigating how to transform this research into a new drug,” he explains. 

But this system is under attack, by the prospect of misguided policies like allowing drug importation and allowing the government to “seize patents for many drugs that are tied to past government-funded research.” 

Why it matters: “America faces stiff competition in the global race for drug invention. If our leaders implement shortsighted policies, we could easily lose our place at the top,” concludes Dr. Rosenblatt.

The big picture: The world desperately needs a cure for the coronavirus—not to mention all the other diseases and superbugs still out there. And the U.S. remains at the forefront of these cures, for now. This is definitely not the time to import drugs from foreign countries and base drug prices in the United States on prices in other countries.


More Health Care News:

The Wall Street Journal: First U.S. Testing Begins for Potential Coronavirus Treatment
"Researchers have begun the first study in the U.S. of an experimental drug aimed at treating the novel coronavirus, the National Institutes of Health said Tuesday."

The Washington Post: Old diseases, other public health threats reemerge in the U.S.
“Even as the world struggles to control the coronavirus, U.S. health officials are refighting battles they thought they had won.”


Cargill’s bringing plant-based meat to the table

BIO member Cargill is launching plant-based burgers and ground “meat” in April, reports Reuters—jumping on the booming trend as more people seek food that’s both healthy and sustainable. 

Cargill will sell private-label soy and pea protein products to retailers and restaurants, allowing businesses to sell plant-based burgers and other ground “meat” dishes under their own brand names.

What they're bringing to the table: “Cargill plans to employ its decades-long experience handling ingredients and buying crops to produce private-label products more efficiently than competitors,” explains Reuters.

What they’re saying: “We’ve created some of the best tasting products available in the plant-based category today,” said Elizabeth Gutschenritter, managing director of Cargill’s alternative protein team. “We’ve combined our deep knowledge of plant proteins with our expertise in R&D, product development and production to deliver products consumers will love." 

Why it matters: As Cargill explained, demand for protein is rising around the world—but as the population continues to grow, we need to ensure we can adequately feed people in a sustainable way. Alternative protein is just one example of how biotechnology—and specifically, synthetic biology—is providing solutions to challenges like carbon emissions and ensuring the sustainability of the global food supply.   

Take a bite:

  • BIO: Synthetic Biology to Sustain Agriculture and Transform the Food System
  • BIO: Is Biotechnology the Latest Food Trend?


More Agriculture & Environment News: 

Ethanol Producer Magazine: Ricketts asks automakers to design cars for higher ethanol blends
“Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts sent a letter to the CEOs of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V., Ford Motor Co., and General Motors Co. on Feb. 11 urging the automakers to increase production of passenger vehicles designed to run on higher ethanol blends, including E20, E30, E40 and E85.”

Euractiv (Opinion): Embracing technology to feed a growing world
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue urges EU regulators to embrace agriculture technology.

BIO Beltway Report

President Trump’s Wednesday: Back in the USA and hitting back on Democrats’ attacks on coronavirus, but there’s not much on the official agenda otherwise.

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: The House and Senate are in session, though nothing’s really happening in the Senate because of day-long party retreats, according to POLITICO. In the House, HHS Secretary Alex Azar will testify in front of a few committees about Trump’s budget request and the coronavirus, while Ways and Means will hold a hearing on U.S.-China trade.

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