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US pharma's net-zero pledges; At-home health devices transform patient care

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US pharma's net-zero pledges; At-home health devices transform patient care

SNL ImageBiopharmaceutical companies, along with medical technology developers, have taken a step forward in their commitments to reach carbon-neutrality.
Source: Ron and Patty Thomas/E+ via Getty Images

The largest U.S. drugmakers have all committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the near term as a global economic forum drew attention back to the sector's growing carbon footprint.

The healthcare sector overall contributes 4.4% of global emissions. As one of the fastest-growing industries in the world — in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic — that footprint is forecast to triple by 2050 if left unchecked, COP25 High Level Climate Champion Gonzalo Muñoz told delegates at the World Economic Forum's Sustainable Development Impact Summit in Geneva on Sept. 22.

But biopharmaceutical companies, along with medical technology developers, have taken a step forward in their commitments to reach carbon-neutrality, said Muñoz, pointing out that 28% of the sector by revenue has joined the United Nations' Race to Zero commitment to reach net-zero carbon emissions by midcentury. Investor pressure is driving some of these actions.

"These ESG topics are far from being extracurriculars or distractions — these are part of the value-making process, and that's what we've heard from investors," Jim Greffet, head of environmental, social and governance strategy at Eli Lilly and Co., said in an interview.

Johnson & Johnson is seen as one of the leaders in environmental stewardship among its U.S. peers, according to environmental nonprofit Health Care Without Harm. Half of the electricity the company uses already comes from renewable sources, and J&J has committed to reaching 100% by 2025. The pharmaceutical giant has also set a goal of net-zero emissions across its vast supply chain by 2045.

US pharma giants combat emissions crisis with long-term net-zero pledges

Read more about Big Pharma’s ESG commitments and goals

Big Pharma sets ambitious diversity goals to ensure 'pipeline' of talent

Black and Hispanic employees make up about 13% and 18% of the pharmaceutical workforce, respectively. However, these groups only account for 8% and 9% of science, technology, engineering and mathematics — known as STEM — occupations within the sector, according to Lori Reilly, COO of trade group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Biopharmaceutical companies are setting themselves increasingly ambitious goals to ensure greater representation for women and minority communities, analyzing employee data to produce a more diverse pipeline of talent.

Healthcare inequity creates 'crisis of trust' among US marginalized communities

Genentech Inc. — part of Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche Holding AG — found in interviews with more than 2,200 people from both the general population and members of the Black, Latinx and LGBTQ+ communities and communities with a low socioeconomic status that a "crisis of trust" among the marginalized groups is partially to blame for a lack of access to care, known as medical disenfranchisement.

Chart of the week

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At-home health devices transform patient care, telehealth possibilities

Healthcare providers and insurers are turning to at-home devices and monitoring tools to care for patients and make use of fast-evolving telehealth technology.

Spurred by lower costs for care and more payment flexibility from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, healthcare providers are increasingly offering remote monitoring options to patients. Hospitals and doctors are making the push as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to restrict in-person care in many circumstances and prompts migration to telehealth services.

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License to Pill: Biotech and pharma deals from Sept. 11-Sept. 24

AbbVie Inc.'s $370 million offering for a gene therapy targeted at chronic eye conditions was the largest up-front payment in licensing deals from Sept. 11 to Sept. 24.

Rockville, Md.-based biotech REGENXBIO Inc. is also eligible for up to $1.38 billion in milestone payments from the U.S. pharmaceutical giant to develop and commercialize RGX-314, a potential one-time gene therapy for the treatment of wet age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and other chronic retinal diseases.

AstraZeneca PLC will make an undisclosed up-front equity investment in VaxEquity and potentially pay up to $195 million in milestone payments to use the Imperial College London spinout's self-amplifying RNA platform to develop up to 26 therapies.

"We believe self-amplifying RNA, once optimized, will allow us to target novel pathways not amenable to traditional drug discovery across our therapy areas of interest," said Mene Pangalos, AstraZeneca's executive vice president of biopharmaceuticals research and development.

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