House Speaker Mike Johnson pledges vote for BIOSECURE as China-targeting bill hangs in limbo

Ahead of an election in November—and amid a period of legislative uncertainty for the China-targeting BIOSECURE Act—U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R - LA) has pledged to hold a vote for the controversial bill before the year is out.

Speaking at an event held by conservative think tank the Hudson Institute, Johnson guaranteed that BIOSECURE would get his support and promised to push through more legislation around China-U.S. competition in 2024.  

“We will vote on the BIOSECURE Act, which will halt federal contracts with biotech companies that are beholden to adversaries,” Johnson said at the Hudson Institute event Monday.

The bill, introduced earlier this year by former Republican congressman Mike Gallagher, seeks to halt federal contracts with Chinese biotech outfits that are “beholden to adversaries and endanger Americans’ healthcare debt,” Johnson explained.

The proposed BIOSECURE Act aims to block certain Chinese equipment and service providers from the U.S. life sciences market over purported national security concerns. The bill currently lists respective R&D and manufacturing contractors WuXi AppTec and WuXi Biologics, as well as a clutch of genomics sequencing firms, though more companies of concern could be added to the act in the future.

WuXi AppTec and WuXi Biologics did not immediately respond to Fierce Pharma’s request for comment on Johnson’s remarks.

While BIOSECURE has won wide bipartisan support, an attempt for a House floor vote that would have included the bill as an amendment to the 2025 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) fell short in June. The NDAA door remains open in the Senate—but voting on it as a standalone bill is considered difficult.

Since the introduction of the BIOSECURE Act in January, industry watchers have fretted over the potential difficulty of western drugmakers decoupling from Chinese service providers. Under the current version of the bill, U.S. and other drugmakers would need to cut ties with Chinese contractors by 2032 to keep hold of their spots on Medicare and Medicaid.

Meanwhile, a recent survey by L.E.K. Consulting found that the bill has greatly undermined U.S.-based life sciences companies’ confidence in working with Chinese firms by 30% to as high as 50%.

For the confidence metric, the L.E.K. team asked biopharma companies to rate their confidence in working with Chinese partners on a scale of 0 to 10. The team took averages from those responses and compared them with baseline levels from before the BIOSECURE Act discussions.

U.S. companies’ confidence in working with Chinese CDMO’s saw the sharpest decline, followed by that for contract research organizations (CROs) and drug development partners.

While the L.E.K. team called the chance of BIOSECURE passing before the 2024 presidential election “unlikely,” the team noted that “the advanced planning and the long cycles of the biopharma industry demand that the biopharmas, their service providers and their investors consider the consequences of this significant regulatory action.”