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House Oversight advances China biotech crackdown

Illustration of a DNA strand with the middle link having a no-go sign

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The House Oversight Committee today advanced a bill cracking down on Chinese biotech firms in a sweeping 40-1 bipartisan vote, setting the stage for possible floor action in the next month.

Why it matters: It's another sign of the momentum behind efforts to cut off U.S. taxpayer funds to select research companies deemed national security risks for the way they could exploit Americans' health data.

  • It also means the Biosecure Act could be the rare health care bill to become law this year, with important implications for a wide range of interconnected pharmaceutical supply chains.

Driving the news: House Oversight Chair James Comer told Axios today that he expects a floor vote "in the next 30 days."

  • We previously reported this vote could come soon as part of a "China week," with a range of China-related measures.

Our thought bubble: Bipartisan legislation cracking down on Beijing is hard to turn away for any member, as today's nearly unanimous roll call vote in a very ideologically diverse committee shows.

  • But there's still controversy around the measure. The latest version was amended to be less objectionable to the drug industry and exempts contracting between U.S. companies and five Chinese firms until 2032, a point that Comer stressed during the markup.
  • "This bill addresses these national security risks without disrupting medical supply chains," Comer said.

Yes, but: Ranking Member Jamie Raskin, who supported the bill, indicated he might seek further changes.

  • He said he wanted to work with other lawmakers "to resolve any potential technical issues and address any unintended consequences of the bill that might affect the American people or our nation's drug supply before it goes to the floor."
  • Rep. Greg Casar, a progressive member from Texas, was the only no vote. He said in a statement that he shared concerns about foreign technology companies but added, "I prefer a bill that establishes red lines that cannot be crossed by such companies and then enforces those rules. This bill doesn't do that."

What's next: The trade group BIO, which opposed an earlier version of the bill, now supports it, and said that it will also take new investment to improve domestic pharmaceutical supply chains.

  • "We look forward to advancing the extraordinary and coordinated policies and programs necessary to redomicile all key parts of the global biopharmaceutical supply chain here in the U.S. for the benefit of the American public and for the entire world," said CEO John Crowley.
  • WuXi AppTec, one of the companies targeted, said in a statement: "We welcome strict regulatory oversight and review of our company and industry, but this bill relies on misleading allegations and inaccurate assertions and could have serious consequences for our customers and the patients who rely on their innovative work."
  • The other companies that would be barred are BGI, MGI, Complete Genomics and WuXi Biologics.
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