What Biden's Ag nominee said during his confirmation hearing

February 3, 2021
Today is National Women Physicians Day, so we’re recognizing Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, the first Black woman to earn a medical degree in the United States. We also recap what Biden’s nominee for agriculture secretary said during his confirmation hearing, and look at…
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Today is National Women Physicians Day, so we’re recognizing Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, the first Black woman to earn a medical degree in the United States. We also recap what Biden’s nominee for agriculture secretary said during his confirmation hearing, and look at why intellectual property protections matter to the biotech industry. (1,000 words, 5 minutes)

 

What Biden's Ag nominee said during his confirmation hearing

 
 

Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry held a confirmation hearing for Tom Vilsack, President Biden’s nominee for agriculture secretary. 

Tom Vilsack is the former Governor of Iowa (1999-2007) and Secretary of Agriculture (2009-2017). Since 2017, he’s been president and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council. (Read more here.) 

Here’s what he said yesterday about a few key issues.

Biofuels: In opening remarks, Vilsack spoke about the importance of expanding biofuels to address climate change and decarbonize all modes of transportation. “The reality is we're going to need biofuels and the biofuel industry for the foreseeable future,” he said in response to a question from Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA).

Vilsack later highlighted the role biofuels can play in decarbonizing transportation in response to a question from Sen. John Thune (R-SD), “I think we can make the case, should make the case, and will make the case, that there is a role to play for biofuels in climate, and reduction of emissions. I think there is a role for the biofuel industry to play as it relates to marine in aviation fuel as well. I think there's a terrific opportunity there.”

You heard it here first, but both Senators Ernst and Thune referenced the recent study from EH&E on the greenhouse gas emissions of corn-based ethanol.

Biobased Manufacturing: “I think there's an opportunity for us to create new markets, incentives for soil health, for carbon sequestration, for methane capture and reuse by building a rural economy based on bio manufacturing, protecting our forests, turning waste material into new chemicals and materials and fabrics and fibers, creating more jobs in rural America, creating greater farm income stability, and also reducing emissions,” he said. He indicated support for initiatives that enable farmers to participate and benefit from carbon markets, like the Growing Climate Solutions Act, which “could be essentially implemented administratively.” 

Learn how we can fight climate change with biotech innovation. 

One Health: There is a “recognition that animal health and human health are connected,” he told Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). “We have to understand that this is a One Health system, and we need to make sure that we are in a position to first and foremost be able to detect more quickly at the farm gate when there’s a problem so we can respond more quickly.” 

Read BIO’s 100 Days of Innovation blueprint for the Biden administration. 

Innovation: Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) asked, “Would you expand on how innovations in agriculture will provide precision livestock and crop production and continue our nation's global leadership role in feeding and fueling the world?” He said USDA won’t be able to reach its goals “without innovation. We won't be able to do it without precision agriculture. We won't to be able to do it without a technology that converts agricultural waste into a variety of products.” 

So, when will he be confirmed? According to POLITICO, "a senate floor vote on Vilsack's nomination is possible by the end of this week." And the unanimous vote out of the committee tells us what kind of support he could expect from the U.S. Senate. 

Overall, BIO aligns with Vilsack’s pledge to make the “pandemic, racial justice and equity, and climate change” priorities for the Department of Agriculture. 

P.S. Here's a fun fact! BIO presented Vilsack with the George Washington Carver Award for Innovation in Industrial Biotechnology in 2019—and we spotted the award bust behind him during the hearing!

 
Tom Vilsack with his BIO award during his confirmation hearing
 
 
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BIO Celebrates Black History Month
Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler

Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler was the first Black woman to earn an M.D. in the United States, as well as one of the first Black medical authors in the country.

Born in Delaware in 1831, she was a nurse before enrolling in the New England Female Medical College, where she would become the first (and only) Black woman to graduate before the school closed. As a doctor, she was devoted to “caring for freed slaves who would otherwise have had no access to medical care,” according to NIH

In 1883, she published Book of Medical Discourses, which focused on medicine for women and children based on her years of notes. The book is the only source of most of the information available about Dr. Crumpler’s groundbreaking career and life. 

Throughout Black History Month, GoodDay BIO will profile Black trailblazers in biotechnology and science. We know there are countless stories within the biotech community that have yet to be told, and we want to share them! If you would like us to highlight a Black leader, influencer, or pioneer in science (maybe someone you work with every day), drop us a note at GoodDayBIOreply@bio.org.

 

Why IP protections matter to biotech innovators

 
 

Last week, BIO submitted comments to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) highlighting intellectual property (IP) issues our members face around the world and explaining why IP is critical for innovation. Here’s what you need to know.

Section 182 of the Trade Act of 1974—known as the “Special 301” provisions—requires the U.S. Trade Representative to identify countries that deny adequate and effective IP protections or market access to U.S. innovators who rely on IP protection. 

As part of USTR’s 2021 Special 301 Review process, BIO submitted comments to USTR and the interagency Special 301 subcommittee highlighting systemic IP challenges biotechnology companies face in key markets around the world.

These challenges include compulsory licenses, forced technology transfer, U.S. Free Trade Agreement partners with inadequate regulatory data protection, patent enforcement challenges—the list goes on and on.

BIO’s submission also highlights how IP is critical to enabling innovation—especially as we work to defeat COVID-19 and drive economic growth and recovery. IP protections enabled the private sector to rapidly respond to the pandemic—and launch more than 800 R&D programs targeting COVID-19—as well as widely collaborate with partners from the public and private sector.

Why it matters: “Less than 10% of drug candidates that begin human testing are eventually approved by the FDA,” Hans Sauer, Deputy General Counsel and Vice President of Legal for BIO, told IP Watchdog. “Strong IP protections—like patents, regulatory data protection, and robust international trade agreements—help offset these business risks and provide the prospect of returns on risky and sustained investments, thus encouraging investors to put money towards future cures.”

  

More Health Care News:

NBC News: Federal government to ship COVID vaccines to retail pharmacies next week
“The initial shipment of 1 million doses will go to 6,500 stores across the country beginning on Feb. 11.” 

The New York Times: As Moderna looks to increase the doses in vaccine vials, the White House announces an expected boost in manufacturing
“The Food and Drug Administration could decide within a few weeks how much more vaccine Moderna…can put into its vials. Moderna says it can raise the number of doses per vial from 10 to as much as 15.”

 
 
 
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President Biden’s Wednesday: The COVID-19 Response Team and public health officials will hold a press briefing at 11 AM ET.

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: “Democrats plow ahead with party-line COVID relief package,” says POLITICO. House Energy and Commerce will hold a hearing today, “Road to Recovery: Ramping Up COVID-19 Vaccines, Testing, and Medical Supply Chain.” Senate Environment and Public Works will hold a confirmation hearing for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nominee Michael Regan.

 
 
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