SWHR Urges Women’s Health Focus in U.S. Biotechnology Investment

Published 10/22/19

In a letter to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), SWHR recommended the government prioritize biotechnology research that explores women’s health issues and sex and gender disparities.

SWHR submitted the comment letter in response to an OSTP Request for Information in early September seeking to improve understanding of notable gaps, vulnerabilities, and areas to promote and to protect in the United States bioeconomy. Biotechnology uses biological processes at the cellular and biomolecular levels to develop advanced and innovative technologies. These technologies may cross fields of health care, agriculture, manufacturing, and the environment. In the field of health care, biotechnology often involves the research and design of biologics — large-molecule drugs based on or engineered from biological tissue. It may also deal with genetic testing, pharmacogenomics, or gene therapy, approaches that speak to advances in the world of personalized medicine.

SWHR’s comments to OSTP considered the issues of biotechnology and biomedicine from a broad perspective. The comment letter emphasized the need for continued focus on women’s health issues in the world of innovative new diagnostics and therapeutics. SWHR made two specific recommendations in considering furthered government investment and oversight within the world of biotechnology:

    1. Prioritizing research designs exploring sex as a biological variable (SABV) in biotechnology research
    2. Prioritizing research addressing areas of unique importance to women’s health

Both topics center on the need to examine sex and gender disparities in the world of biotechnology. The first priority called for standardization and increased clarity across studies regarding the use of specific analyses to examine biological sex disparities in disease etiology and response to advance treatments. The second priority addressed the fact that there are diseases that are significantly more prevalent in women than in men, such as endometriosis, migraine, and autoimmune disorders. There is a dearth of research as well as insufficient treatment options and/or availability for many of these diseases. This information gap makes these underexamined areas ripe for continued investment and development.

SWHR’s mission is to foster greater understanding of biological sex differences in disease and to promote improved women’s health through science, policy, and education. The growing field of biotechnology is primed to be a major contributor to improvements in overall population health, as well as women’s health specifically, as long as research investment and design are structured to consider the needs of women.