GUARIN: Maximize biopharmaceutical innovation today — and tomorrow

These are tough times. Like many, I am impacted across the board. My small business has seen revenue plummet. As a volunteer firefighter, I see the fear this pandemic has generated in my community. And I see it in my own family, as we struggle with the new challenges of caring for my younger brother already dealing with ALS.

Our sympathies are pulled in every direction as we mourn those who have died from COVID-19 and we feel for their families who have been deprived of bedside goodbyes.

We worry for patients, like my brother, with underlying conditions increasing their risk of serious complications.

And yes, we are also concerned for those who have lost their jobs in this pandemic and hope our small businesses will survive.

We all want to get past this and the simple reality is that this will ultimately require a vaccine. That’s the challenge, but the good news is we live in one of the leading states for pharmaceutical research.

I’m not a doctor and I’m not suddenly become an epidemiological expert. I’m a 29-year-old man who still can’t believe that my younger brother has ALS. That’s why I am already a supporter of biopharmaceutical innovation.

Before anyone had ever heard of COVID-19, my family was already focused on constantly monitoring pharmaceutical innovations seeking a cure for ALS. This horrible degenerative condition is typically fatal within a few years of diagnosis. Lou Gehrig only lived to the age of 37, but Stephen Hawking survived into his 70s thanks to better research and development on how to deal with the condition. I pray every day that my brother, diagnosed exceptionally young, will benefit from the next wave of advancements and live a full life.

As we all now face COVID-19, my support for the biopharmaceutical research going on right here in North Carolina and around the country has only grown. My brother is extremely vulnerable. And our neighborhoods, state, and nation as a whole will be held hostage until reliable treatments give us confidence to resume our usual routines. We will truly return to normal and revitalize our economy only when widespread immunity is achieved, likely through a vaccine.

Fortunately, progress has been made in only a short time. One company’s drug is already setting a “new standard of care,” according to Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. Another research group’s vaccine achieved 100% protection among rhesus monkeys exposed to high levels of this coronavirus. As these animals are similar to humans, this is good news.

That’s why I’m worried about a Trump Administration recently signed executive order, known as the Most Favored Nations Executive Order. President Trump has done so much to make the process for securing a vaccination so much more efficient. But I worry that this order, which would link the prices of medications here in the United States to those produced and sold abroad, will have the unintended consequence of harming the very researchers and scientists who are searching for a cure for COVID-19.

New discoveries — and clinical trials taking place as we speak —  possible because we aren’t starting from scratch. The pharmaceutical pipeline spans thousands of potential therapies, and important findings in genetic engineering and other fields are enabling rapid creation of vaccine candidates. This research, conducted over decades, can help save us today.

But halting it for the sake of short-sighted policy or the most favored nations executive order threatens the cures of tomorrow. I want elected leaders to do everything possible to support the public and private research groups, companies, and institutions contributing their knowledge and talents right now. Right now, that means vocally opposing the Most Favored Nations Executive Order.

Good policymaking shouldn’t stop when COVID-19 is cured. Let’s allow for the same efficiencies of effort to cure other diseases — from cancer to Alzheimer’s to ALS — that threaten people we love.

Oscar Guarin is the Owner of Oz Corp LLC, a construction company, and is a Certified Volunteer Firefighter at the Northern Wake Fire Station 3.