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tv   Washington Journal Dr. Jeremy Levin  CSPAN  July 13, 2020 12:41pm-1:09pm EDT

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america's cable companies as a public service and brought to you today by your television provider. >> coming up, the house appropriations committee debates 2020 one spending levels for energy, water development, labor, education, and health and human services. live coverage begins at 1 p.m. eastern here on c-span. you can also watch online at or listen with the free c-span radio app. a discussion now on the biotech industry and what role it is playing in the fight against coronavirus. dr. jeremy levin is chairman of the biotechnology innovation avinization, ceo as well of d therapeutics. what encompasses the biotech industry? how many companies are we talking about? what is the difference between biotech and big pharma? guest: that is it great question -- that is a great question.
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the biotech industry was formulated in the united states. it was an industry that was unpacking the biology of cells, understanding how the biology of these cells could be used to made new medicine -- to make new medicines. pharma in the past was essentially trying out medicines on animals to see if they worked and then put them into a human being through a clinical trial process. once we understood how the genes worked, how to manipulate those genes, a whole new ability to transform what we knew about cells into medicine came into being. this is a real revolution. it started in the 1970's, walked through the 1980's and now today. there are approximately a couple thousand companies, about 700 of whom are members of bio. many others are private. there are smaller industries in
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and these in asia small companies, although tiny represent no more than anyone of the big companies in terms of numbers of employees, generating about 70% of all medicine. what is the difference? it is simple. in the biotech industry, there is an absolute focus on innovation, new ideas, new ways of delivering medicine. those two coupled together often are supported by investors. those investors buy stocks in the company. pharmaceutical companies have a very different structure. they take these medicines and now they sell them through insurance companies and others to patients. they are huge, they are very substantial. often, the way they are financed, essentially by the
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payments that insurance companies pay them. very different, imperative. one giving a return to investors through innovation and ensuring that what they develop is critical for patients, the other who has to deal with a very complex health system that we have for receiving its revenue and enabling it to further take these innovations and get them to patients. host: of all these biotech companies, what percentage of them would you say have turned the majority of their focus to coronavirus topics? guest: this is a great question. to answer that, you have to understand how what existed on january 1, 2020. less than a handful of programs. today, there are over 600 unique aboutms ongoing, of which
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180to 170 are new vaccines, are new ways of attacking the virus, trying to kill it. then there are a whole slew, about 200, close to 270 plus, where companies are trying existing medicines. what has gone on during this period of time is literally hundreds of companies have pivoted, a very unique pivot, wartime. host: how does that pivot compare the medical challenges of the past? or aides?rs -- or aids? guest: perhaps an even more close response or analogy might to 2007, when we
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were trying to crack open --cer, and cancer was really much of the thinking had been online. at that time there were approximately four or five companies who were not in the mainstream, that were working on what was called immuno-oncology, getting a white cell to attack cancer, mobilizing the body's defenses to attack cancer. as a consequence of that, we have a situation, where you have an enormous number of patients few on thejust a sideline. what happened was in approximately 2009, a company was bought, a biotech company,
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and they had half a dozen clinical trials. it took 10 years from that time, and what we saw in that moment was that we had a massive massive, enormous number of trials. biotechhe entire industry by january of this year was focused on this. hundreds of companies. a decade. peopleuch more rapid, responded, but only a handful of companies responded and by the time they responded, much of the wave had washed over us. aids equally took a decade. one of the leading companies at the time, gilead is one of the leading companies today, but nothing of the scale you see here. billions of dollars have gone in, over six to seven months versus the same over many decades with cancer and the same
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early on in aids. host: dr. jeremy levin joining us from his home to talk about the biotech industry, the role that they are playing, when it comes to the fight against coronavirus. phone lines are split up regionally if you want to give us a call. (202)-748-8000 is the number if you live in the eastern or central time zones. (202)-748-8001, if you are in the mountain or pacific time zones. a special line for medical professionals as well, (202)-748-8002. vidmentioned your work with a therapeutics. what is bio, for viewers who are not familiar? guest: bio is an organization that is 25 years old. it represents all of the innovative companies, the vaster majority of them -- the vast majority of them.
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it tries to persuade the congress and fda and others who are important in getting innovative medicines to understand exactly what will be critical for america. we take a strategic view. we believe that we as an organization see biotechnology as a strategic asset for america, and as a consequence, our job is to translate the need of all of the industrial companies into policies that could be enacted through government, and on the local level we also work with the regional governors to explain to them just what we are trying to accomplish, what the industry can do for them in terms of employment, what can do for them in terms of innovation, and the general economy. a very important and pivotal this industry, in our nation, not just for medicine by the way, but also for the
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environment and for agriculture, all of which has critical components of biotechnology, which allow you to improve the environment, ag products. that is what we do. we are a dedicated organization whoby a marvelous leader, joined us recently as the new ceo, and is really focusing on patients and innovation. we talked about how much the biotech industry has changed its focus to coronavirus. whoever develops a vaccine first is going to literally have the entire world at their market, to sell that vaccine. to be arole in trying voice for the industry, how much is the industry cooperating with each other? how much competition is there, to be the first to develop this and is that holding back any
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speed of innovation? guest: great question. think number one, competition is really good and innovation. you learn from other people, you compete from other people. what you want to be is not just the first developing a new car. that is not the issue. the issue is, can you find a atter way of developing vaccine? can you find a better vaccine? insee this repeatedly medicine. healthyion is extremely and very important. what you do think about, however is there are certain noncompetitive things that everyone should know. an example of that is what we learned from the sars and h1n1 episodes. studied thed really genes of these viruses, that was
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shared very quickly with all the companies, and said now, find us a better vaccine. what happened there was by sharing that type of information, you are immediately enabling companies to put their say howins on an idea, do i take that jean and get a better back -- take that gene and get a better vaccine? it is very difficult to find a vaccine and the medicine, so the better brains you have focused on it, the better it is. one other thing, what we have seen amongst the companies is a high degree of cooperation, of the type i described, things that will enable the brain in each separate company to be brought to fruition. as much as the data has been shared, you have to take your hats off to the large companies, astrazeneca, j&j, in addition to
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the biotech companies who are sharing quite freely the critical, what i would call noncompetitive information. host: which is what? guest: gene sequences, the understanding of the medical outcome of these disorders, how you would measure the effect of your medicine on a patient. those are things everyone needs to know. host: you mentioned some of the brains of these companies. you highlight some of them, in a new book you edited, biotechnology in the time of covid-19. who are some of the brains you talk about in that book? guest: that book, there are 47 different authors who came together over a period of approximately four weeks. iasked all the top thinkers could who were able to and it was remarkable who did step forward. all the top thinkers to stand up and talk about what they were doing, how they were doing, but
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less about their product and more how they pivoted. -- aave leaders like really well-known leader in the area. andy plumb, a number of others. people fromgilead, e, what they wanted to do was show how they were thinking, what made them turn. not necessarily their specific product, but what they saw coming out of this. i could mention a number of others. , each one ofple them had a different approach. each one of them set the stage for what you see in front of you, these 600 different approaches to handling this
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disorder. twitter, what have the biotech companies done so far regarding covid? question is 100% correct. what they have done is often times shut down other programs. they have asked the question, what kind of medicine can we develop, and they have advanced these. these companies have run experiments and have done what are called phase one trials. they are in the midst of getting into phase two. phase one is when you test initial safety. phase two, you ask if you have a drug or a vaccine that might work. a slew of these companies are moving into the phase two process. if you ask what they have done, you won't yet see it. it is like the little duck's feet, paddling under the water.
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the press is watching us. many of these results will start to show, do they or don't they in the case of a vaccine, raise the right kind of immune response to defend against the virus? in the case of antivirals, are they killing off the virus in an effective way that will result in a treatment? i am confident that given the time that we are going through now, this is moving at a speed we have never seen before. this is literally moving at a speed we have never seen before. to give you a metric, it can take up to 10 years to find the right kind of vaccine, be it for, herpes, we are six months in, and we know that we have six or seven that are already in phase one, being tested. that is really lightning fast.
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host: when you think we will have a vaccine by? guest: there are several questions -- several answers to your question. number one, when we will have a vaccine that we know is safe? when we -- when will we have a vaccine that is produced in a way that is sufficient for the populace to have and be vaccinated? i anticipate that within the next six month period, we will definitely know if we have a vaccine that works. it would be most surprising if we didn't. the question in parallel, how do we develop the manufacturing capacity to deliver literally hundreds of millions of doses? that is nontrivial. there are very skilled be atives, who used to gsk who is now leading a task force, specifically looking at
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how to produce the vaccine and how you coordinate production. it should be noted that they were involved previously
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we already have a tell -- it's hydrochloric win. the whole nation of india takes it. it works and to have medical experts and people use this as a political football just because our president takes it saying it's no good is ridiculous. it works, that's a fact, and i don't understand what the political argument is here. host: i will let you weigh in on that. guest: great question. thank you. first of all, the appalling, appalling, appalling behavior of those small handful of large companies that pushed and dealt with the opioid crisis can never
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be forgiven. you should know that i have personally those few companies are not representative of the industry. they are not. they represent a tiny fraction. i want to be very clear. has helped fund the legislation, has helped companies invest in this area. i personally have seen the devastation caused by the opioids. urge you to be a little careful.
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it is not a question of policies or politics or anyone politician. it is a question of medical fact. i have used hydroxychloroquine. i know what it does. i am a physician. i have used it in africa. i have used it elsewhere. is extremely limited. it does not pass the test at effective.f being certainly compared to what we see another medicines coming up, it is going to be looked at as something we should have looked at and thought about, but not something we should be distributing at this stage. i would be very cautious. you need to look at medical facts. let's forget all the politics. this is all about fax. -- facts.
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host: do you want to talk about your medical background and issues you have worked on? guest: i am a fully trained doctor. i came to america and decided what i wanted to do was to devote myself to new medicines. with medical situations in africa, asia, and actually, even in america. , my interest is theted entirely to solving disorders. an example would be engelman's. 23,000 patients across the u.s., kids are born this way. they can't walk, they don't sleep well, they have behavioral problems, they can communicate. nobody wants to find a medicine for them.
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-- ii let a company was the largest generic company leader -- we dealt with millions of patients. i am now devoting myself to .hese types of disorders this is a very typical year. what is happening with the research and efforts on those type of disorders amid so many companies in your industry turning their attention to coronavirus? to solving covid? are the issues being left behind? >> this is such an important ours.nt of y rede are approximately 7000 diseases.
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the open drug act allowed companies to start thinking about how they could address disorders. have are only 300 who treatments. these treatments are tremendously difficult to develop. a lot of the, investment that would go to this.ies like if you want to know how many individuals there are, 30 million americans suffer from it. it is not trivial. it is big. the consequences of that is that clearly, covid has an impact.
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there has been less interest but in certain cases like ourselves, we will not be deviated from it. my team wants to make sure these patients are heard -- are served. we announced an agreement with the company in europe. that agreement will allow us to ensure that not just the individuals in america but the individuals in europe will get the benefit of american innovation to treat the disorder. i want you to know that we are facing a situation with covid where a lot of resources have moved. it is not a bad thing, by the way. i want to point out that as i said in january, about 50% of all investment was going into solving cancer. now we have a shift into covid, and i am hoping that other disorders like congestive heart failure, diabetes, others that affect many tens of millions of people -- in a way that would be helpful. to your point, there has been an impact on the rare diseases, not from companies like mine. my company will retain its focus
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while i help drive innovation at the bio level on covid. host: dr. jeremy levin with us, about a half-hour more, to take your calls and questions as we talk about the biotech industry and the coronavirus. our next caller is out of philly. good morning. caller: good morning. i am curious about the relationship between hospitals and the biotech companies, as it relates to genes. is there a relationship? as a comment, i am concerned as an african-american that new biotech discoveries come into being, how much our population is considered. sometimes, the tests are done from a broader population -- american population more than specifically the american population -- specifically the african-american population, so vaccines or cures may not have
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the same effect. what is the relationship between the biotech companies and the hospitals, especially as it relates to covid? guest: thank you for your question. the critical nature of the relationship, specifically to that which you described, is when a company needs to test its medicine, it is ideal when testing it is in a controlled medical setting. it goes to a hospital, -- to go to a hospital, it has to present to the doctors at the hospital, a plan on how it will test its medicine on patients in those hospitals, and what is called an irv, a review body that will look at the safety and the kinds
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of things that will be tested and then we will answer questions inside the hospital. do they have the patients? they will have to have trained physicians monitor how the drug or vaccine might be administered. at that stage, the physician has to pay the hospital to ensure that these trials are run rigorously and to ensure that the hospital and the patient's don't incur -- and the patients don't incur a cost. it is vigorous, ethical, the whole attempt is to find how a doctor can test for medicines. ideally, for example, in great britain, astrazeneca is working with what is called the national health system. [no audio]


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