BIO Africa 2022: Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath’s opening remarks

Bringing together local and international business leaders, scientists, innovators, academics, and lawmakers, the fifth annual BIO Africa 2022 convention was held in the Durban International Convention Center in KwaZulu-Natal from August 29-30.

This year’s tagline was “Africa Resilient: Life Sciences Innovation for Achieving Health and Food Security.”

The convention, which sought to promote innovation in these critical biotechnology fields, was heavily focused on agriculture, healthcare, and the environment.

President and CEO of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) Dr. Michelle McMurry Heath delivered the opening plenary welcome speech at BIO Africa 2022.

Watch the highlights reel:

Dr. McMurry-Heath also took part in a panel discussing women in science leadership.

As Bio.News has reported, vaccine access in Africa was a major challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic, but eliminating intellectual property protections for COVID technologies was not the answer, or even needed.

Transcript of Highlights of Remarks by BIO President and CEO Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath at BIO Africa 2022:

You have amazing progress already accomplished, potential yet to come, and the promise for how your collective work will change the globe.

The progress is evident and how scientists from this continent have led the world in detecting and responding to COVID variants, how South Africa has challenged the paradigms in building the world’s first mRNA hub, and in the incisive arguments leaders from Africa have provided in the global distribution of COVID vaccines.

Black scientists around the world are looking to you to change the face of science and change the types of questions science, as a whole, asks. We need you to help us prioritize and make sure we achieve the answers that really will make a difference to communities around the world.

So, the world may not expect you. I know the world did not expect me, but the world will depend upon you, and I deeply believe you will change the face, the path, and the impact of science in the world.

I understand it’s been heartbreaking to see people waiting on vaccines, and I know we have to do much better. I think we also have to look very carefully at where the rate-limiting steps were. I do think it gets back to politics, you know. If you look at how the U.S. government put in place the Defense Production Act at the beginning of the pandemic, which actually prevented our American companies that were based in the U.S. from exporting doses until they had fulfilled their orders to the U.S. government.

The nationalism that we see during these crises is the real root of the problem of trying to get doses everywhere in the world. So we have to be committed to breaking down those political barriers so that more people have access sooner, and we have to make sure that there is a widely distributed global footprint of vaccine manufacturing capabilities so that those national-political games can play a lot smaller role in who gets treated first.

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