BIO's lobbying chief departs against backdrop of China-US biosecurity concerns, drug price reckoning

Shortly after the arrival of a permanent successor following more than a year under interim CEO Rachel King, the top U.S. biotechnology trade group has bid adieu to its lobbying head.

“We can confirm that Nick Shipley’s last day with the Biotechnology Innovation Organization was April 5,” a spokesperson for the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) said over email Wednesday.

Shipley, who joined the organization in 2021, acted as BIO’s chief advocacy officer—a role in which he oversaw federal and state affairs related to the industry including issues like government efforts to rein in drug prices.

Aiken Hackett, vice president of federal governmental affairs at BIO, will be taking up Shipley’s post on an interim basis, BIO’s spokesperson said.

Endpoints News first reported Shipley’s departure April 10.

Despite the fact that Hackett will be taking over for Shipley in the meantime, it isn’t immediately clear whether BIO plans to keep its chief lobbying role around in the long term.

BIO’s new CEO John Crowley, who was named as BIO’s permanent helmsman in December following a protracted interregnum, is “considering structural changes in the near future which could impact whether or not the role is permanently filled,” Stat has reported, citing an email sent to the trade organization’s executive committee.

Shipley's departure comes at somewhat of a hectic time for industry lobbying groups. Most recently, the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party unveiled the BIOSECURE Act, which seeks to prevent “adversary biotech companies” from obtaining federal funding in the U.S. The bill specifically calls out several Chinese genomics companies as well as China-based CDMO giant WuXi AppTec.

BIO’s Crowley voiced support for the draft legislation in March after the trade group initially opposed the bill. Meanwhile, in conjunction with BIO’s pledge of support, WuXi AppTec “proactively ended its membership” with the trade group, BIO recently revealed in a March press release. 

Besides the biosecurity issue, the industry's perceived influence in D.C. has taken a hit with the implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which was passed in August 2022. The legislation marks one of the first real wins by the govenment in its efforts to challenge high drug costs in the U.S., which the IRA will seek to accomplish by allowing the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to negotiate the prices of certain drugs beginning in 2026, among other measures. 

BIO, like its sibling trade group PhRMA, was quick to hit back against the IRA. Still, despite industry protests, the government has pushed on with Medicare price negotiations.

Last summer, following the reveal of the first 10 drugs up for negotiation, BIO released a statement arguing that the bill's price control provisions were "already significantly, and negatively, impacting the research and investment decisions of the biotech industry in the US."

The group's interim CEO stressed that BIO would continue its efforts to "thwart the overtly negative impact the IRA’s price control provisions will have on patient access, innovation, and economic development more broadly."

Besides those two issues, BIO has also been a critic of a Texas court's ruling to slap restrictions on abortion pill mifepristone, arguing that the decision could undermine FDA authority and jeopardize drug research. The Supreme Court recently decided to take up the case.

Crowley, for his part, landed in the captain’s seat at BIO in March after the trade organization announced his appointment as CEO in December.