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Policymakers should support industries fighting against COVID

Over the past few decades, the life sciences industry in Virginia has been able to create thousands of jobs and develop groundbreaking treatments in part due to the commonwealth enacting policies that support innovation and growth. Then when the coronavirus pandemic began, the industry was able to jump into hyperdrive to develop solutions, treatments, and more to help Virginia fight against COVID-19.

Lawmakers should ensure that future policies continue allowing the bioscience industry to create revolutionary and lifesaving treatments that help all Virginians.

Virginia’s bioscience industry is contributing in diverse ways to fight against COVID-19, bringing in years of experience combating infectious diseases such as MERS, SARS, and influenza. The effort has been bolstered by Virginia’s investment into these programs over several decades, spurring investment in sophisticated manufacturing infrastructure and technological advances that will speed the development and deployment of effective treatments and vaccines.

In Charlottesville, the industry has focused on improving patient monitoring and rapid diagnosis, as well as worked to identify and evaluate the effectiveness of potential treatments and vaccines that are critical to stopping the novel coronavirus and COVID-19.

The industry is always active in Virginia, whether we are facing an existential threat to public health or not. Year in, year out, the biopharmaceutical sector is a pillar of the Virginia economy, contributing $1.2 billion in economic activity in the Charlottesville region and producing more than $8 billion in goods and services statewide.

However, a recent federal proposal to tie U.S. prescription drug prices to those found in foreign countries would jeopardize the biotech industry around Charlottesville. Such pricing caps would lead to lower revenues and therefore force biopharmaceutical companies to cut costs in some ways. That could include limiting future investments in research and development for treatments for chronic diseases like cancer, multiple sclerosis, or heart disease. The federal policy also could threaten the jobs of nearly 2,000 people employed in more than 65 bioscience companies in the Charlottesville area, as those companies face cost-cutting measures.

And at the state level, policymakers are studying the role the industry plays in ensuring Virginians can access the care they need. Ultimately, lawmakers should see that the life sciences industry drives the development of therapies that improve patient lives and help keep us healthy.

Meanwhile, the life science industry’s efforts against COVID aren’t solely focused on treatment or vaccine discovery. In addition to their work in the lab, the industry is also working to help its fellow health care professionals on the frontlines. Biopharmaceutical companies are providing financial support and in-kind donations to health care providers, organizations, and health authorities around the world as they struggle to deal with this public health emergency. These efforts to support R&D and lend a helping hand to commonwealth communities are crucial in the fight to end this pandemic.

With the pandemic creating economic uncertainty across the nation, it is vital that Virginia maintains state investment in bioscience programs and development that can improve our commonwealth’s economy while working to ensure our nation is safe and healthy now and in the future. We urge our policymakers and our citizens to continue to support bioscience initiatives and join in when possible. By working together, we will continue to make progress in this fight.

 

John Newby is CEO of the Virginia Biotechnology Association (VA Bio) and can be contacted at john.newby@vabio.org.

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