Is vaccine R&D vulnerable to political pressure?

August 4, 2020
Today, Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath gives her take on a report about concerns of political pressure on the vaccine R&D process, and we congratulate a BIO member who got a big boost to their innovative bioplastic. But before we dive into the news, check out Dr. McMurry…

Today, Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath gives her take on a report about concerns of political pressure on the vaccine R&D process, and we congratulate a BIO member who got a big boost to their innovative bioplastic.

But before we dive into the news, check out Dr. McMurry-Heath's new op-ed in The Hill on how President Trump’s recent drug pricing executive order threatens the small biotechs working on COVID cures. 

Here are around 580 words, just under 3 minutes.

Is vaccine R&D vulnerable to political pressure?

The government is investing billions in COVID-19 vaccine R&D, and some researchers fear political pressure to get something—anything—to the arms of the American people in a contentious election year. Should we be concerned? BIO President and CEO Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath discussed this topic on MSNBC.

The government has invested billions in COVID-19 vaccine R&D—and just last week announced its largest award yet ($2.1 billion) to Sanofi and GSK.

But some researchers are concerned about “constant pressure” and “political intervention” in the process—and they’re “struggling to ensure that the government maintains the right balance between speed and rigorous regulation,” according to The New York Times.  

How vulnerable is the process to political pressure?MSNBC’s Katy Tur asked Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath yesterday.

Her answer: “Ordinarily, I would say not vulnerable at all,” said Dr. McMurry-Heath. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “has a history of being very independent” and we have a strong peer-review system.

But: “We just want to make sure that the scientists at FDA are allowed to do their work, that their standards remain high—which I have full confidence that they will—and that their decisions are allowed to stand.”   

Watch the whole thing—and find out what Dr. Michelle wants to see from scientists and from the FDA:

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More Health Care News: 

The New York Times: ‘The biggest monster’ is spreading. And it’s not the coronavirus.
“Tuberculosis kills 1.5 million people each year. Lockdowns and supply-chain disruptions threaten progress against the disease as well as H.I.V. and malaria.”


A boost to bioplastics

With the plastic pollution problem getting worse and worse, it’s critical we find a solution. Luckily, BIO member Danimer Scientific is developing an innovative biodegradable bioplastic—and they just received a federal grant to help commercialize it.  

The news: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded nearly $5.7 million to support eight innovative biomanufacturing projects, including two from BIO members.

Danimer Scientific,a leading developer and manufacturer of biodegradable materials, is the sole recipient focused on creating biodegradable plastics.

The grant will enable the Georgia-based company to accelerate commercialization of polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), which is 100% biobased and breaks down in soil, freshwater, and ocean water.

It will help the plastic get ready for a lot of solutions—like biodegradable water bottlesstrawsproduce bagseven snack bags developed in partnership with PepsiCo.

What they’re saying: “Reducing the environmental impact of single-use plastic waste is one of the most pressing issues facing our planet, and with the DOE’s support, we can explore potential new areas of applications for PHAs that have not been tried before,” said Phil Van Trump, Chief Technology Officer of Danimer Scientific.

Listen to this recent episode of the I AM BIO Podcast, featuring Danimer Scientific’s Chief Marketing Officer Scott Tuten. 

Learn more about bioplastics.

More Agriculture & Environment News:

Hagstrom Report: BIO elects agricultural leadership
"The Food and Agriculture Section of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) has elected Sylvia Wulf, CEO of AquaBounty Technologies, Inc., and Brian Brazeau, president of Novozymes North America, as the new chair and vice chair, respectively, of BIO’s Food and Agriculture Section Governing Board."

BIO Beltway Report

President Trump’s Tuesday: Signing The Great American Outdoors Act (H.R. 1957), which provides funds for national parks and land and water conservation. The press secretary is expected to hold a briefing at noon ET. 

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: It’s a relatively quiet week as Congress continues work on the coronavirus aid package before the Senate goes on recess. Also, ICYMI, the Senate recently passed the Sustainable Chemistry Research and Development Act—something BIO has supported—in the defense appropriations bill, reports Chemical & Engineering News.

On Deck This Week:  

Thursday, August 6, 2020 at 2:00 PM ET | House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus: Challenges to Safely Reopening K-12 Schools

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