In honor of our collective resilience of living through a global pandemic, Women's History Month, and our dearly missed annual WoVen gathering, we felt it was important to reconvene the Women Who Venture community, even if virtually, to renew commitments to collaborate, share deal flow and find new opportunities to lift us all.
This year, we were thrilled to have Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath, President and CEO of BIO, keynote our virtual gathering. Dr. McMurry-Heath shared her leadership vision for BIO and why she is relentlessly focused on broadening access to scientific progress so more patients, especially those from diverse backgrounds, can benefit from cutting-edge innovation.
We invite you to view the keynote conversation (3:00), as well as a brief Q&A session (18:50) led by Canaan General Partner, Nina Kjellson.
Keynote Transcript (3:00-18:40)
Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath: It's wonderful to join any group of talented women, but particularly women with the power to create change. I'm going to share a few thoughts with you about BIO, about COVID, and how we can improve healthcare for all. Then I look forward to taking your questions and having a conversation. I'm sure I can learn a lot from each of you. For those of you who are not familiar, BIO is the world's largest biotechnology trade association and advocacy organization. We have nearly 1,000 member companies in more than 30 countries. About 90% of our companies are small companies, but we represent all companies big and small. We represent companies across the agriculture environment, industrial and biopharmaceutical sectors. We have hundreds of small and emerging companies, universities, and research institutions among our membership.
I'm proud that particularly after the events of the past year, BIO, the biotechnology innovation organization really stands up for science. We give a voice to those on the front lines developing the breakthroughs that enrich each of our lives, protect our planet and fuel our bio economies. Many of our smaller companies have no revenue and sometimes no products on the market, and a lot of them are run by scientists, entrepreneurs who have spun a project out of the research lab. Many are working on just one product, one treatment or one idea that can drastically improve people's lives. At BIO, one of our great differentiators is that we represent this entire scientific ecosystem, and we've recently expanded to make sure that we have more of our investors at the table as well. We've just started an investor roundtable and would love to involve more of you in that conversation too because it's a burgeoning area for us. It is such an important part of our ecosystem.
This unique perch that BIO occupies allows us to shape the regulatory, the policy, and the trade environment to ensure that the entire global scientific ecosystem not only survives, but really thrives. It's our goal to make sure that rapid biotech innovation is scaled and harnessed equitably. So not just scaled and harnessed, but scaled and harnessed equitably for health, sustainability and justice. This is what we call the BIO Revolution. It's what we as an organization and I believe as an ecosystem and industry are working for – a world where every person has access to the care, the resources and the breakthroughs that allow them to lead opportunity filled lives. And of course, COVID-19 has laid bare some of our inequities in our healthcare system and our economic systems.
I'm so proud of how our industry has responded, collaborated, and then produced new care and treatment. The accelerating of vaccines that we've seen this year is the result of many individuals and groups, but also biopharmaceutical companies that helped to lead the way by producing safe and effective vaccines in record time. Many folks don't realize that our industry globally has started over 960 research and development programs designed to prevent, stop or treat COVID-19. 190 vaccine R&D programs were started over this past 13 months. We hear a lot about those leading candidates, the first across the finish line, but I think we really need to applaud this herculean effort throughout the industry to try to contribute to getting mankind back on our feet again. As a result, our industry has seen a 30 point bump in public approval and I think this is incredibly important, but it's not enough because we still face a lot of political and public opinion headwinds. What's more is we're seeing great support for science and scientific institutions more broadly.
These trends give us an opportunity to promote biotechnology and science as the answers we know them to be, to many of society's greatest challenges and inequities. With political leaders often deadlocked and a consensus that climate change or another pandemic will present future challenges, we believe that this is a moment for scientists to step forward and advance critical solutions. Yet to advance this Bio Revolution that we seek, we can't rest on our laurels. They say that when systems are exposed as deficient you shouldn't rebuild them the same way. So don't just plug a leaky ship. We need to take the time and attention to build a better boat that can carry more people safely to shore. That's what we're working towards at BIO.
I like to call it just science and that's because I see science as a tool for social justice. And by that, I don't mean a return to a world where science is free from political pressure and partisan politics, although that is key as well, but one where there's again rigor and respect for data and the public servants who analyze it. I'm talking about a world where the science is being developed, the benefits it will bring and the opportunities that it can create can reach deeper into communities in ways that are just impactful and inclusive. Key to this effort will be increasing our outreach to underprivileged communities and communities of color. There's a lot I could say here, but suffice it to say that we need to be doing more to reach the people who need our scientific help the most, whose issues such as chronic asthma, diabetes, heart conditions, or in this year of 2020 and 2021, COVID, are not receiving necessarily the level of attention that they need.
As part of this effort we need greater diversity in our clinical trials. The trials for COVID vaccines were able to blend speed and diversity because of the resources that these companies could wield, and the incentives provided by Operation Warp Speed, but that's not often the case. When you aren't going to into communities to ask them what they need and building that fundamental trust and including the flexibility necessary to conduct diverse trials, you don't get just science. Instead, you get the same old and getting back to that normal that didn't work the first time around which should not be our future. So what can we all do? I know that you're investing already and that's very critically important and I think it's so critical what we've witnessed over this last year of how investors asking the tough questions of our companies, has started to have a huge impact on how our companies set priorities. What they put first and foremost and gives them the backing they need often to continue to make sure that their science is moving the social agenda as well as the biomedical agenda. Moving forward, continuing to prioritize these equitable investments is key.
Look at companies that are researching cures and treatments that aim to help individuals and communities and women who are sometimes overlooked by the R&D process. You know as well as I do that there are companies, scientists, and labs out there working on what are essentially moonshots. They might not know what their end product will look like, but they're practicing sound science and they want to make a difference for more people. I really want us to work together to help be their guiding hands because together we can be the catalyst for change, ambitious and inclusive in our goals for the industry, the broader innovation ecosystem and society. The investments you make and the guidance you offer can provide a unique opportunity to deliver a better, more just, more inclusive world. This is part of how BIO outlines their new priorities.
We took a deep dive last summer and spent time surveying our membership, reaching out to our stakeholders and figuring out where BIO can make the most consistent and important gains. We set up five new strategic pillars that are going to guide our work over the next several years and this includes being a voice of science and for science. Science and patients have to be at the center of everything we do, and we need to be a trusted resource for providing that perspective and to any public dialogue that's taking place. Two, we want to improve the access to our innovative science to make sure more people can enjoy the fruits of this research. We want to help innovators engage with each other and empower their work because that's a critical part that BIO plays, facilitating that great collaboration and network that leads to scientific progress.
We want to make sure that we are fueling the Bio Revolution so that we're looking across our ability not just to produce new medicines, but also to change the way we think about agriculture. To stave off climate change so that we're sure that our companies are playing their role in not just building back our culture and our society, which is key, but also that we're offering those promising jobs and careers that are going to help our economy and our families recover. Finally, we want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to have coverage that reaches all people when it comes to biopharmaceuticals. So as we do this work together, BIO will have your and the scientists' back. That's why we push back against policies that could stifle R&D or prevent companies from being able to turn a profit. Don't overlook how much policy can influence the future of biotechnology or the importance of everyone, including investors like yourselves, standing up to support biotech leaders searching for breakthroughs.
When I started at BIO a little over 10 months ago now, I was really excited for the opportunity to support the nation and the world's biotech innovators. I've worked for large companies, federal governments, a think tank, and BIO provides a platform to speak about the issues that affect our entire ecosystem and by extension our society. I'm so honored to be a voice of the science and to help empower that innovation and to champion the breakthroughs and the scientific quality that we know is coming. Coming from a family that cared deeply about public health and having rare disease affect members of my family, I can say that these issues are deeply personal for me and I'm willing to bet that each of you knows, or has met someone who could benefit from greater and more equitable scientific research. The kind of research that relies on someone believing in a company's unique work or cause in greater access for all and in the belief that bets on science are the best that's for our future.
So as you do that work, know that BIO will be standing with you helping shape the regulatory and research and development environments that make your investments the best they can be. Over the past year, too many people have cast doubt on science. Instead of hailing vaccine investments they've questioned whether corners were cut. We faced the headwinds of science and vaccine hesitancy, but science is going to lead us forward and we need to show that we believe that. If we focus on achievements and breakthroughs for all our scientists, our innovators will be the ones leading the way in the creation of greater health and opportunity for all.
About Women Who Venture (WoVen)
WoVen is a platform that fosters community and programming for women across the innovation ecosystem. WoVen represents women in venture capital, in venture-backed companies and other adventuresome women in healthcare, tech and business. More on the WoVen community and programming here.