Our vendor and supplier mapping project illustrates the biopharmaceutical industry's investment in our state economies and in the health of the patients we serve.
WA at a Glance
Welcome to We Work For Health Washington. We’re dedicated to promoting the economic benefits of life science business and research for Washington state's economy and patients around the world. We Work For Health seeks to educate our elected leaders, the news media and the communities they serve about these key contributions of the life science sector in our state.
- Innovation and Impact: Roundtable Discussion with Senator Patty MurrayApril 23, 2014
On April 23, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Washington State University President Dr. Elson Floyd, University of Washington President Michael K. Young, and other Washington state academic and life sciences business leaders joined a forum hosted at Seattle Children’s Research Institute to discuss a new study on the economic benefits of partnerships between the life sciences industry and academic research institutions. The event hosted more than 70 individuals, including key stakeholders in economic development, patient advocacy and private-sector life science enterprises.
- Roundtable with Congressman Adam SmithMarch 18, 2014
The Washington Council on International Trade hosted a discussion on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement currently under negotiation between the United States and eleven other Asian Pacific economies. Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09) discussed TPP and the benefits its implementation would have for Washington state's international competitiveness.
Completing the TPP trade negotiations is a top priority for Washington elected and business leadership, as Asia is a primary market for Washington exports. TPP would lower barriers to trade and implement uniform regulations and fair intellectual property protection. The passage of TPP would help foster growth and innovation in Washington state's life sciences sector.
June 24, 2014
By Mark Garrison
Skydiving instructor Josh Nahum survived a parachuting accident in 2006 only to die eight weeks later from an infection he acquired in the hospital. His killer was a so-called gram-negative pathogen, a bacterium immune to nearly all treatments.
Earlier this year, a Chicago hospital saw the largest outbreak to date of an illness resistant to even “last resort” antibiotics. We desperately need new, more powerful medications to fight these drug-resistant superbugs.
Today, however, our own health care system often stands in the way. Fortunately, with the right financial and regulatory incentives, pharmaceutical companies can develop new antibiotics capable of preempting devastating epidemics.
All antibiotics become less effective over time as pathogens evolve and develop resistance to existing agents. Misuse and over prescription have worsened the problem. A recent study of emerging infectious diseases found drug resistance to be nearly three times greater today than in 1940; in 2013, for the first time, the CDC issued a list of resistant bacteria categorized as a serious or urgent threat.
New drugs are essential. But perversely, antibiotic development is at an all-time low. In the 1980s, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved 30 new antibacterial agents; since the late 1990s, there have hardly been half that number of new approved agents. Our arsenal of effective treatments is emptying rapidly.
Why the drought? Pharmaceutical research is expensive. On average, developing a new medication costs $1 billion. Antibiotics also face special regulatory hurdles, including less-than-optimal FDA guidance in clinical testing and confusing rules for doctors prescribing them.
Because new antibiotics are rarely profitable and pharmaceutical companies have a fiduciary duty to their stockholders, they are forced to concentrate on developing medications that offer a better return on investment. An average neurological drug earns seven times more than the most successful antibiotic, for example. The disparity is greater for antibiotics that target less common threats – like the untreatable gram-negative bacteria that killed Josh Nahum.
Research pharmaceutical companies are in the business of inventing new cures. It’s time to create incentives for them to develop new antibiotics and ensure that indiscriminate prescribing doesn’t cause new problems. The solutions are threefold:
• Doctors need better data and guidance. Increased funding for agencies like the CDC could help better track infections and patterns of drug resistance. Health care agencies and organizations have started to develop clinical treatment guidelines for the use of antibiotics in select infections. However, additional guidelines are needed and emphasis on prescriber adherence to these treatment guidelines is critical.
• Policymakers must ease the regulatory burden on developing new drugs. On its own, the FDA can continue to improve its fast-track approval process. Legislation currently before Congress called the Antibiotic Development to Advance Patient Treatment (ADAPT) Act would create a special approval track at the FDA, building on the success of a 2012 law in creating a better regulatory incentive structure.
• Finally, we must create financial incentives to spur innovative drug research, especially for the rare but lethal superbugs. The European Union already offers tax credits for antibiotic R&D, and in partnership with the pharmaceutical industry, it provides more than $272 million in direct research funding. The United States should follow suit. The cost of inaction will be enormous. The CDC warns that more than two million illnesses and 23,000 deaths occur each year as a result of antibiotic resistance. As more pathogens develop drug resistance, those numbers will no doubt increase.
One need only glance back in time to imagine a future without strong antibiotics. More soldiers in the Civil War died from illness than battlefield injury. The top three causes of all deaths in 1900 were infectious diseases.
The near elimination of such misery was a crowning achievement of the past century. Unless we take steps today to encourage new drug development, the cost in lives from an epidemic resistant to current antibiotics will be staggering.
Mark W. Garrison is a pharmacy professor at Washington State University.
April 27, 2014
By Elaine Scott and Daniel J. Abdun-Nabi
Washington is famous as a hub for software and aerospace. Less well-known is that the life sciences have become a vital sector of our economy. Bioscience is now Washington’s fifth-largest employer, contributing $8.9 billion to the local economy.
This trio of software, aerospace, and biotech is one of the largest contributors to the state’s economic future. To keep it going, however, state and federal officials must work to develop the workforce of tomorrow. That workforce will need sound training in the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
This growing need was the subject at the recent Life Science Day in Olympia. Washington’s bioscience leaders had the opportunity to meet with and educate state legislators about the industry and about the critical role of STEM education.
Much of the growth in Washington biotech has been driven by the state’s premier academic research institutions, the University of Washington and Washington State University. In 2010, higher education facilities spent more than $1.5 billion on research initiatives.
But despite Washington academia’s research success, there remains a profound skill mismatch in our life sciences and STEM-intensive sectors. As these industries expand, American high schools and colleges are producing fewer students with these core competencies.
The need for STEM workers will keep growing. The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation has predicted that the U.S. economy will demand between 20 percent and 30 percent more STEM graduates in the next two years alone.
Right now, the American education system is unable to meet this demand. In 19 other developed countries, colleges are graduating more STEM students than in the United States. One-fourth of American high-school students never attain math proficiency, and only seven percent reach the top two tiers of science skills. Compared to the rest of the world, math and science scores of American teenagers are only mediocre, with scores right in the middle globally.
So dire is this growing skills shortage that President Obama has made STEM improvement a national priority. “Growing industries in science and technology have twice as many openings as we have workers who can do that job,” he noted in a speech last year. “That’s inexcusable.”
To help alleviate the skills gap, private sector industries have begun making their own investments in education. The pharmaceutical industry, in particular, has dedicated more than $100 million to STEM promotion programs since 2008. To date, more than 1.6 million American students have benefited from these initiatives.
Emergent BioSolutions, a global specialty pharmaceutical company with a product development facility in Seattle, embraces the importance of private-sector STEM initiatives. Central to our corporate social responsibility mission is to educate tomorrow’s scientific leaders.
Annually, Emergent hosts middle school, high school, and college students, who benefit from laboratory tours, hands-on experiments, panel discussions and poster sessions about careers in science, manufacturing and engineering. Most recently, Seattle employees managed an educational booth at the Pacific Science Center’s Life Sciences Research Weekend, to introduce students and parents to bispecific antibodies, blood cells, and clinical research. The three days of live demonstrations, interactive exhibits and panel sessions attracted over 12,000 visitors.
In the United States, too few students will find their way into STEM fields on their own. They need to be shown a path, and that entails getting them excited about science and technology at an early age.
It is also a given that unless we produce the STEM-competent workforce we need, innovation and economic growth will suffer. In a state as tech-dependent as Washington, that needs to be a priority.
The STEM event in Olympia highlighted the need for an effective partnership between the private sector and government policymakers. Now, we need to replicate that cooperation at the federal level.
Only four countries spend more than the United States per student, but American performance has stagnated as other countries have improved. We need action from both the private and public sectors to address this challenge.
Elaine Scott, Ph.D. is dean of the School of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics at University of Washington, Bothell. Daniel J. Abdun-Nabi is president and chief executive
February 23, 2014
By BJ Cavnor
Ten years ago last month, Congress created a Medicare prescription drug benefit that has quietly revolutionized the pharmaceutical sector.
Medicare Part D provides access to medicines that improve patient outcomes. It's bending down our country's health care cost curve. And the drug program helps fuel the research behind tomorrow's breakthroughs. Policymakers should see to it that Washington's residents continue to reap the many benefits of Part D.
Medicare Part D's results have been impressive. Today, 9 in 10 American seniors have comprehensive prescription coverage. Expenses for both seniors and taxpayers are remarkably low: The program has cost 45 percent less than originally anticipated, and the average monthly premium paid by seniors here in Washington is about $58.
Over 90 percent of Part D policyholders are pleased with their coverage. Few health care programs garner such high levels of satisfaction.
And Medicare Part D helps reduce health care spending overall by improving seniors' well-being. In many cases, prescription medications mitigate conditions that require costly inpatient or physician-administered therapies. Researchers at Harvard have confirmed that patients who gain drug coverage save $1,200 annually in total health spending.
Part D also propels further pharmaceutical advancements that make it possible for Washingtonians to live longer and healthier lives. Since 1950, Americans' average life expectancy has grown by a decade — and it continues to climb upwards. Cutting-edge therapies are helping more and more Americans survive deadly diseases.
Consider cancer: The life expectancy of a cancer patient today is three years higher than it was in 1980. And with nearly 1,000 new cancer treatments currently in development, the options for patients — and the chances of successful recovery — continue to increase.
HIV/AIDS is no longer a terminal illness; a 20-year-old diagnosed with the disease can expect to live an additional 50 years. HIV/AIDS death rates have fallen 79 percent since 1995. Americans' cholesterol levels are down. Fatalities from heart disease fell by 30 percent between 2001 and 2011.
Perhaps the greatest advance in pharmaceutical medicine in the past year is the approval of two new medications to cure hepatitis C, with another in development. There are an estimated 3.2 million Americans living with hepatitis C, the leading cause of liver cancer in the United States. These new medications may cure up to 90 percent of patients.
This incredible progress is directly attributable to advances in pharmaceutical research and expanded access to the drugs these breakthroughs make possible. And there's a great deal more innovation to come.
Here in Washington, more than 3,600 clinical trials have taken place in our state's hospitals, medical schools, and research centers since 1999. Nationwide there are 3,400 medicines currently in development. Over 400 of these new drugs are focused on the leading chronic diseases affecting seniors, including diabetes, heart disease, depression, and arthritis.
That's good news for patient health and economic growth. When left untreated, chronic conditions can cost as much as a trillion dollars a year by one estimate. And no dollar amount can calculate the cost in suffering from a chronic disease for a patient and their loved ones.
Researchers are working especially hard in developing a treatment for Alzheimer's disease. The condition currently affects some 5 million seniors — a number that could triple by 2050 — and accounts for $200 billion in direct medical costs each year. Over 15 million Americans provide more than $200 billion in unpaid care. These costs of care take a tremendous toll on families providing for patients.
Our best defense against illness is prevention, but with the diagnosis of disease, we need new and more effective medications. In Medicare Part D's 10 years, the gains from pharmaceutical innovation — in Washington and across the country — have been nothing short of staggering. Seniors have access to cutting-edge medicines that are saving lives and controlling costs. By keeping Part D strong, we can accomplish even more in the next 10 years.
BJ Cavnor is executive director of One in Four Chronic Health.
October 15, 2013
By H. Stewart Parker
Across Washington, vaccination campaigns are improving residents’ well-being.
Just five years ago, our state’s kindergartners were the least vaccinated in the country, with a vaccine opt-out rate of 7.6 percent. According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control, that number has fallen to just 4.6 percent, a trend that is likely behind the recent decline in whooping cough cases.
But while the health benefits of vaccines are widely recognized, the economic significance of these treatments is just now becoming apparent. In the next few years, advances in vaccines will help reduce health-care costs while creating countless new jobs. Our state could find itself at the center of this medical and economic revolution — but only if state leaders continue to support policies that make Washington a welcome place for medical innovation.
Vaccines are currently one of the most exciting areas of medical research. Some 271 new vaccines are in development for treating or preventing everything from malaria and HIV/AIDS to cancer. Aside from their obvious medical benefits, these new vaccines will have a sizeable effect on our economy; averting disease helps keep Americans out of the hospital and soaring health-care costs in check.
This relationship between medical innovation and health-care costs has been seen most obviously in the field of cancer research. University of Chicago economists have found that reducing cancer death rates by 10 percent could produce as much as $4.4 trillion in economic benefits.
What does cancer research have to with vaccines? Quite a bit, it turns out. Many of the vaccines currently in the development pipeline are intended for the treatment of cancer. Unlike traditional vaccines, which prevent illness, cancer vaccines help patients fight off their disease once it’s already developed.
Researchers are working on vaccines for treating breast cancer, ovarian cancer, lung cancer and pancreatic cancer, among many other forms of the illness. And our state is already a significant contributor to this groundswell of breakthroughs. Seattle-based Dendreon recently released a vaccine for those with prostate cancer. Other pharmaceutical companies with an office or operations in Washington — such as Amgen, GlaxoSmithKline and Takeda — have been behind some of the field’s most impressive developments.
Dozens of new vaccines are also being tested for the treatment of infectious diseases. Much like cancer medicines, treatments for this category of illness have an impressive record of reducing health spending.
The eradication of smallpox in 1977 is estimated to save $300 million a year. Every dollar spent on the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, meanwhile, is thought to save $21 in medical costs. And every dollar spent on the humble flu shot prevents another $2 in related spending.
Tomorrow’s infectious disease vaccines are also likely to carry impressive economic benefits. Consider malaria, a disease for which five new vaccines are in development. As Harvard economist Jeffrey Sachs has noted, countries with a high malaria rates have income levels that are only a third of countries where the illness is less prevalent. Advances in preventing malaria, therefore, could go a long way towards lifting developing nations out of poverty. Potential vaccinations for the Ebola virus, dengue fever, yellow fever, typhoid and cholera could have similar effects.
Washingtonians are especially well situated to gain from this medical renaissance, as pharmaceutical research is already a vital part of our state economy. Bioscience firms support more than 45,000 Washington jobs that, altogether, pay Evergreen Staters $1.1 billion in compensation. The sector is also a significant source of state revenue, generating nearly $200 million in taxes each year. If Washington continues to be a leader in the creation of new vaccines, our economy will be all the stronger for it.
However, we can’t take this wave of innovation for granted. Our state is currently one of the best places in the nation to conduct biotechnology and pharmaceutical research, largely because of tax incentives designed to encourage investment in these fields. But, on average, the development of a new drug costs $1.3 billion and takes 10 to 15 years of research and development.
Given this enormous expense, state leaders need to support policies that make it easier and more cost-effective for firms to carry out their research here in Washington.
Washingtonians should be proud that our state is on the vanguard of vaccine innovation. Let’s fight to make sure it stays that way. Our lives — and our economy — may depend on it.
H. Stewart Parker is CEO of the Infectious Disease Research Institute in Seattle.
By Chris Rivera
Special to The Times
THE future of Washington state’s economy lies in technology. According to a new report from the Washington Roundtable, an extraordinary 5,000 high-tech jobs are expected to open up locally every year over the foreseeable future.
A big reason for the Evergreen State’s technology-driven economy is biotechnology — an industry on the cusp of producing a historic abundance of new advanced medicines. This fast-approaching deluge of biotech innovation won’t just produce a wealth of lifesaving medicines. It will also generate the kind of sustained growth and job creation that our state so badly needs.
Realizing this prosperous future, however, will require federal lawmakers to protect the incentives that enable Washington’s biotech giants to invest in new research lines.
Over the past decade, we have seen revolutionary new treatments for illnesses like hemophilia, multiple sclerosis, arthritis and cancer. These drugs have changed the landscape of medical technology.
According to a new report, America’s biopharmaceutical companies are currently developing more than 900 different biotechnology medicines to treat more than 100 diseases ranging from asthma to leukemia.
Washington — where the Department of Commerce’s motto reads “Innovation is in our nature” — is well placed to benefit from this biotech boom. According to National Science Foundation data, more than 14 percent of Washington residents are employed in high-tech industries — some 25 percent higher than the national average.
In our state, life-sciences research and business directly support more than 35,500 local jobs, and indirectly support another 57,000, creating an overall employment impact of nearly 91,000 jobs. In 2010, life sciences in Washington state created $10.4 billion of gross domestic product and $6.6 billion in personal income.
But biopharmaceutical breakthroughs don’t happen overnight. In fact, developing these medicines is a costly, time-intensive process. Researchers at Tufts University estimate that it requires, on average, more than a decade for a new biotech treatment to wind its way through the development pipeline and onto the market. This lengthy ordeal can easily cost more than a billion dollars.
Policymakers play a significant role in continued medical innovation. Ill-conceived reform could destroy the delicate incentive scheme that encourages investment in new biotech medicines.
Leaders in Washington, D.C., are currently considering several such reforms. The first would reduce the length of the “data protection” period granted to innovative biotech firms.
Currently, biologic producers that create a brand new drug are given a 12-year period during which other firms are prohibited from releasing competing products onto the market. This window of time incentivizes biotech companies to invest in new research lines while also allowing low-cost, non-brand biologics to eventually get to patients.
In his budget, President Obama proposed reducing this period to just seven years. By doing so, he would make the prospect of creating new lifesaving medicines far less attractive for biotech investment. The result would be a marked slowdown in medical innovation.
The President’s budget also includes a plan to impose price controls in Medicare Part D. The proposal would implement a rebate scheme on medicines sold to low-income beneficiaries. Doing so would distort the pharmaceutical market and drive up premiums for many of the program’s other beneficiaries.
Both of these proposals pose a threat to an industry that is on the brink of historic advancements. These “reforms” would stand in the way of the economic growth and job creation that the biotech sector is poised to deliver to the Evergreen State.
Policymakers in Washington, D.C., should understand that the biotech boom is hardly a foregone conclusion. It’s up to them to support a business environment in which innovation can flourish.
Chris Rivera is president of the Washington State Biotechnology & Biomedical Association.
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