Welcome to GoodDay BIO

January 6, 2020
Welcome to GoodDay BIO, the only daily newsletter at the intersection of biotech, politics, and policy, hand-curated by the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) team in Washington, DC. Whether you’re a long-time member and subscriber, attend our international…
BIO

Welcome to GoodDay BIO, the only daily newsletter at the intersection of biotech, politics, and policy, hand-curated by the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) team in Washington, DC.

Whether you’re a long-time member and subscriber, attend our international convention, or perhaps just have an interest in the latest biotech innovation, we’re glad to have you join us.

Every Monday through Friday, we’ll bring you the health care, agriculture, environment, food, and politics news driving the day, with clarity, brevity, and a bit of humor—and you can always read the newsletter in five minutes or less, promise!

(And no worries if you don’t want to hear from us—you can unsubscribe at the bottom of the email.)

To kick off the new year and National Biotechnology Month, we’re taking a look at the latest news on the U.S.-China trade deal, why AMR must be a priority in 2020, and what to expect from Congress this week, in 897 words, or 4 minutes, 26 seconds.

What kept us up at night over the holiday break

AMR (antimicrobial resistance) is one of the biggest health threats facing society, but companies researching new antibiotics are increasingly ending R&D and going bankrupt, the New York Times reported over the holidays

AMR is a crisis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report in November finding antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” cause almost 3 million infections and 35,000 deaths per year—more than previous estimates. 

But the outlook for new antibiotics is grim. “The companies that have invested billions to develop the drugs have not found a way to make money selling them,” explains the Times, leading them to end investment in antibiotic R&D and even go bankrupt.

Tetraphase Pharmaceuticals is just one example. The BIO member spent a decade developing and getting approval for Xerava, a new antibiotic effective against two particularly nasty superbugs, MRSA and CRE—but doctors and hospitals were reluctant to prescribe it over older, cheaper drugs. As a result, the company had to close labs and end research on three other promising medicines.

It’s a problem for both big pharma and startups. “Estimates show that it takes more than a decade to develop a new antibiotic or vaccine and can cost more than $1 billion. But even when a product does make it to the market, it might take a whopping 23 years to break even on its R&D investment,” explained BIO CEO Jim Greenwood. “The truth is, there’s little opportunity for a company to recoup its development costs on an antibiotic, let alone make a return on its investment.”

What can we do? The government must spur investment in antibiotics—starting by passing the bipartisan DISARM Act, which would create a separate reimbursement payment for antibiotics under Medicare, allowing hospitals to fully recoup the cost of newer treatments. 

And we need to stop the proposed drug price controls. We know the international price index in H.R. 3, which passed the House in December, will stymie R&D and lead to as many as 100 fewer new cures in a decade—a risk we can’t take in the middle of the superbug crisis.

This is a priority for 2020. For more on BIO’s advocacy work on this issue, visit Working to Fight AMR.

 
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The proof is in the purchase

After almost two years of negotiations, Trump tweeted that the United States and China will sign a “phase one” trade deal on January 15—and while nothing’s final yet, it’s promising news for American agriculture and biotech. 

The details: Reports say the United States agreed to reduce tariffs on $120 billion worth of Chinese imports, while China will increase purchases of American products by $200 billion as well as address IP issues—but China’s not commenting, though they apparently rescheduled travel to be in Washington on January 15 after Trump tweeted. 

But the proof is in the purchase: U.S. Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer has said China’s “expected” to increase ag purchases to $40-$50 billion annually over the next two years, but questions remain about whether China has the demand for such a huge amount of farm goods, explains Reuters—and nothing’s final until there’s a signed deal.

What’s in it for biotech? In December, Agri-Pulse said an administration official confirmed the deal addresses biotech—and according to USTR, the agreement will address “non-tariff barriers to U.S. agriculture” including “products of agriculture biotechnology.”

Why it matters: Delays in China’s biotech regulatory system slow American farmers’ access to new biotech products and cost the U.S. economy tens of thousands of jobs and billions in economic output, found a recent study by Informa’s Agribusiness Consulting Group. A trade deal will not only help farmers access new technologies sooner and protect their intellectual property, but also improve rural economies and secure the global food supply. 

BIO’s take: “China’s regulatory system is broken and the delays are costing U.S. farmers and the economy billions of dollars, so just fixing this issue would be a tremendous win,” said Andrew Conner, BIO’s Senior Manager for International Affairs, last year. We look forward to seeing the details and working with the administration on implementation.

More on what to expect:

  • Bloomberg: Trade won’t fade as a big disrupter in 2020
  • Reuters: U.S. farmers see another bleak year despite Phase 1 trade deal

 

More Agriculture & Environment News:

AgriCensus: China paves way for domestic GMO cultivation with new approvals
China’s Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Affairs approved safety certificates for 203 new genetically modified crops for domestic planting and import, including a soybean and a papaya developed in the United States.

 
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President Trump’s Monday: Expect Iran and the U.S. presence in Iraq to dominate the news cycle this week following the news Trump ordered a drone strike in Baghdad, which killed Iran’s top general, Qasem Soleimani. Meanwhile, today, Trump's credentialing new Ambassadors to the United States before having lunch with the veep.

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: The Senate is already back to work, and the House tomorrow. House and Senate leadership remain in a standoff over the terms of the Senate impeachment trial, though Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), a member of the Republican whip team, said we can expect the trial to be over by the State of the Union on February 4. Meanwhile, Democrats are still focused on drug pricing legislation, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted last week, and the Senate Finance Committee will mark up the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) tomorrow, January 7.

 
 
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