Success of future biotech innovation to hinge on various factors
By Phillip A. Sharp, Julien Patris  |  Jun 16, 2022
Success of future biotech innovation to hinge on various factors
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A Nobel laureate MIT professor and a medtech exec talk up how COVID-19 has reshaped attitudes toward public health, fiscal policy, and the state’s economic role, and of how demands for greater supply-chain resilience and autonomy in making medicines have spawned the concept of ‘life-science sovereignty.’

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS - French President Emmanuel Macron recently announced an ambitious plan calling for France to produce at least 20 new biotherapies by 2030. With financing from the French public investment bank, his government’s La French Care initiative aims to support the domestic biotech ecosystem and turn France into a “pioneer mRNA [messenger ribonucleic acid] nation.” Similarly, many other governments - from the Netherlands to the United Kingdom - are doubling down on their domestic biotech sectors.

This attention is welcome, but will it be enough? As the COVID experience has shown, securing approvals for a handful of vaccines and therapeutics requires hundreds of clinical trials for existing and new compounds - many of which fail. Medical innovation is expensive, and the costs and risks associated with it tend to be misunderstood by policymakers and ordinary citizens alike.

Consider the story behind ribonucleic acid interference (RNAi) therapeutics, a new category of medicines that target the genetic causes of disease and use small interfering RNA (siRNA) to ‘turn off’ harmful proteins at their source. These treatments have virtually unlimited potential, but the journey from scientific possibility to real opportunity for patients has been very long.

The discovery of the structure and function of deoxyribonucleic acid in the 1950s launched a sustained research effort to understand the biological mechanisms underpinning the process of gene expression. Building on those breakthroughs, Andrew Fire and Craig Mello discovered RNAi, or ‘gene silencing,’ in 1998, for which they won the

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