What to expect on Earth Day

April 22, 2021
Happy Earth Day—here’s what to expect from President Biden’s climate summit and more on the role for biotech in cleaning up the planet. We also dive deeper into the TRIPS debate with insights from Dr. Michelle in The Economist. (800 words, 4 minutes)

Happy Earth Day—here’s what to expect from President Biden’s climate summit and more on the role for biotech in cleaning up the planet. We also dive deeper into the TRIPS debate with insights from Dr. Michelle in The Economist. (800 words, 4 minutes)

 

What to expect on Earth Day

 
 
 

President Biden’s virtual Leaders Summit on Climate is underway—and a big announcement regarding America’s climate commitment is expected today. Here’s what you need to know—and how biotech will play a role in cleaning up the planet. 

President Biden is expected to announce a pledge to cut U.S. emissions “nearly in half by the end of the decade, a target that would require Americans to transform the way they drive, heat their homes, and manufacture goods,” reports The New York Times.

Straight from the source: “President Biden will announce a new target for the United States to achieve a 50-52 percent reduction from 2005 levels in economy-wide net greenhouse gas pollution in 2030,” according to a White House Fact Sheet. 

Watch Dr. Michelle's Earth Day messageand learn why acting to protect our planet does not mean sacrificing our economic growth:

 
BIO Celebrates Earth Day 2021
 

This week, we looked at specific ways biotech is already working to achieve climate goals—including companies in the food and agriculture sector and low-carbon biofuels.

Biobased manufacturing can help us produce more climate-friendly goods, too—such as by replacing plastics derived from fossil fuels with sustainable, biodegradable materials. Here are a few BIO members working in this field:

Amyris combines renewably sourced carbon from plants with synthetic biology (synbio) to manufacture effective, sustainable health and beauty products—like Reese Witherspoon’s favorite skincare

Danimer Scientific creates compostable polymers and is commercializing 100% biodegradable bioplastics for use in bottles, straws, and snack bags

Genomatica develops commercial biobased processes to make more sustainable versions of widely used chemicals and materials in everyday products, including a “bio-nylon.” 

Ginkgo Bioworks takes advantage of biology—“the most advanced manufacturing technology on the planet”—by programming cells to produce food, materials, and therapeutics. (Listen to Gingko Bioworks CEO Dr. Jason Kelly discuss his company's technology on the I AM BIO Podcast.)

Novozymes develops products with enzymes and microbes to solve some of our biggest challenges—such as products to more effectively and sustainably clean surgical devices, or convert corn fiber into low-carbon ethanol.  

Twist Bioscience pioneered a more precise method of manufacturing synthetic DNA at scale with a process that allows for cost-effective industrial production of DNA for use in things like COVID diagnostics and treatments

Virent uses feedstocks and biomass to make renewably sourced hydrocarbon molecules that can be dropped in to existing infrastructure for the production of chemicals or fuels.

Catch up on our Earth Week coverage.

 

More Agriculture and Environment News: 

Senate Letter to EPA: "Continue your commitment to support farmers and rural communities"

“Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Deb Fischer (R-NE) led a bipartisan letter urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reject any requests from refiners to waive or reduce their ethanol blending requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard."

Nature Biotechnology: First GM pigs for allergies. Could xenotransplants be next?
“The FDA greenlights allergy-safe meat, but its makers have organs for transplants in their sights.”

 
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Why we must protect IP to battle COVID

 
 
 

International protections for intellectual property are essential to fighting COVID-19, explains BIO President and CEO Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath in an article published in the Economist on Tuesday.

Catch up: On Monday, Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai explaining why a proposal to waive WTO’s Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) regulations for COVID medicines would actually hinder pandemic efforts. 

We have “a public health and humanitarian imperative” to expand vaccine access worldwide, Dr. Michelle writes in the Economist. This requires “more global collaboration and significantly more investment by developed countries like America.” 

But removing IP protections removes the incentive to develop drugs. “The policies that enabled firms to produce lifesaving technologies at historic speeds are now under attack,” she says. Waiving them “tells the successful firms and their investors that the results of their effort can be appropriated by anyone in the world.” 

Companies had been working on these vaccine technologies for a LONG time. Years of prior research into mRNA allowed Moderna, Pfizer, and BioNTech to produce vaccines rapidly—and Dr. Michelle says her former colleagues at Johnson & Johnson “leveraged their knowledge from developing an Ebola virus vaccine to quickly develop an inoculation against COVID-19.” 

And biotech firms pay for many failures on the road to success: “Before the pandemic ends, billions of dollars will have been spent on vaccine candidates and potential therapies that will never come to market or earn a penny.”

Instead of attacking IP, developed countries must lend support—through collaboration, distribution assistance, and vaccine sharing. 

Read the whole thing.

 
 
 
 
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BIO Beltway Report
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President Biden’s Thursday: The Leaders Summit on Climate is underway. At 1:30 PM ET, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry and National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy will join a press briefing. 

What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: The Senate continues consideration of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act. The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry just passed the Growing Climate Solutions Act. The committee will also hold a hearing on the nomination of Jewel Bronaugh to be deputy Agriculture secretary. Bronaugh would be the first woman of color to hold the position. Meanwhile, the House is expected to pass a bill granting D.C. statehood; the bill will face a bigger challenge in the Senate, explains CNN.

A few hearings to watch include Senate Finance on U.S.-China trade, Senate HELP on protecting U.S. biomedical research and preventing foreign influence, and House Oversight and Reform Environment Subcommittee on the role of fossil fuel subsidies in preventing climate action, with Greta Thunberg testifying.

 
 
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