BIO, the organization that represents the world’s biotech companies, has a new leader – a doctor, scientist and former U.S. FDA official – who says she’ll use this moment to talk about science in a new way.
On June 1, Michelle McMurry-Heath, an immunologist educated at Harvard and Duke, will officially take over as president and CEO, replacing former Congressman Jim Greenwood, who had a successful 15-year tenure with the group. McMurry-Heath recently commented about her new role and what it’s been like to assume it at a historic time for global health. For one thing, she hasn’t met the BIO staff in person yet. For another, BIO’s annual conference – a must-attend event for biotech leaders around the world – will be virtual this year.
Despite the crisis caused by COVID-19, McMurry-Heath says she’s ready to reframe the critical issues surrounding biotech. It’s time, she said, “to turn the page and talk about what science has been able to do to make patients feel better, make our country safer, make our country more prosperous. And I think going forward, it’s going to be more important than ever to tell that story and tell it loudly.”
BIO members, including CSL Behring, have stepped up to help develop treatments for the deadly coronavirus, which has slowed global commerce. Global biotech leaders have mounted 400 programs in 16 weeks to try to address this pandemic, McMurry-Heath said in a YouTube video.
“It’s mind-boggling when you think about it. That’s the commitment and drive and dedication that BIO members show every day,” she said. “And that is what’s going to buoy me up and really help me tell the story – help me tell your story – to the rest of the country.”
CSL Behring in March partnered with Takeda and a group of other industry partners to create the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance. The group is pooling its scientists and manufacturing know-how to work together on an unbranded hyperimmune immunoglobulin. The hope is that the potential treatment, derived from the plasma of recovered patients, will deliver a reliable, concentrated dose of virus-fighting antibodies. A clinical trial is expected by summer.
Michael Ruggiero, CSL Behring Senior Vice President for Global Healthcare Policy and External Affairs, welcomed McMurry-Heath. He serves on BIO’s Health Section Governing Board.
“We are really excited to begin this new chapter with BIO under the leadership of Dr. McMurry-Heath, whose broad experience across science, medicine and policy will be valuable assets for industry and the patients we serve,” Ruggiero said. “We also want to thank Jim Greenwood for his strong leadership and wisdom over the past several years in strengthening BIO and guiding industry through challenging times, and wish him the best in his next endeavors.”
BIO is short for Biotechnology Innovation Organization and the group aims to promote public policy and collaboration to advance innovation. The 2019 BIO conference happened in Philadelphia, close to home for CSL Behring, which has its global corporate headquarters in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.
Last year’s event attracted tens of thousands from 70 countries and included the unveiling of a mural sponsored by CSL Behring. “The Promise of Biotech” – created in partnership with Mural Arts Philadelphia – can be found at 1108 Sansom Street, now part of the city’s extensive inventory of public murals.
BIO Digital, this year’s online conference, runs June 8-12 and will emphasize partnering. “We may not be able to gather in person,” the conference website says, “but nothing stops innovation.”