President Joe Biden just launched the National Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative, an ambitious effort to make our pharmaceutical supply chains more secure.

American scientists invent a majority of the world's new medicines. But often, those drugs -- or the active ingredients used to make them -- are manufactured abroad. The Biden administration correctly believes that reshoring this manufacturing will create jobs and bolster our economic and national security by ensuring the U.S. is no longer dependent on potentially hostile nations to stock our medicine cabinets.

But in a classic case of the right hand not knowing what the left is doing, other members of the Biden administration are considering a different policy that would have the opposite effect by discouraging biotech companies from investing in domestic research, development, and manufacturing.

The policy in question involves a petition before the World Trade Organization to waive intellectual property protections on COVID-19 therapeutics and tests. That move, though well-intentioned, would harm American workers and patients around the world.

In June, the U.S. signed on to a World Trade Organization pact to waive IP protections on COVID-19 vaccines. Biden administration officials were careful not to waive those protections on COVID-19 therapeutics and tests, though.

But the pact obligates WTO members to decide by December whether to expand the waiver. Supporting such a move would be a step too far, especially for an administration so clearly committed to biotech innovation.

Strong and consistently enforced patent protections play a crucial role in moving medical science forward. Without these, there would be little incentive to risk billions of dollars chasing the next miracle cure or lifesaving vaccine.

If patents become unreliable, the entire system of medical innovation will break down. Expanding the WTO waiver to include COVID-19 drugs and diagnostics will signal to inventors and investors everywhere that they can no longer trust governments to protect intellectual property rights.

The result will be a dramatic reduction in medical innovation that leaves us dangerously vulnerable to a health crisis even worse than COVID-19. Indeed, it was America's unrivaled research institutions that enabled companies like Moderna and Pfizer to roll out state-of-the-art coronavirus vaccines in record time and to keep up with the virus as it mutates. We'll need a similarly quick response in the inevitable next crisis.

If the WTO expands the scope of the waiver to therapeutics and tests, medical breakthroughs will be much rarer. Most breakthroughs are prefaced by numerous very expensive failures. If companies don't think they'll ever be able to recoup losses from researching what turn out to be dead ends, they won't take the risks needed to bring successful drugs to patients. If that happens, the U.S. will lose manufacturing jobs, not gain them. And patients now and in the future will miss out on the kinds of revolutionary treatments needed to beat back health crises like COVID-19.

I am in favor of all kinds of ways to bring down pharmaceutical prices, and I applaud the recent bill passed by Congress — and signed by Biden — allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices. I would go even further and work to ensure that the middlemen, who sit between drug companies and insurers, aren't raking in unreasonable profits and are instead sharing savings with patients.

But attacking intellectual property rights threatens the very existence of one of the few industries where the U.S. still dominates. That would be exceptionally foolish, and the American people will be the ones that suffer the most if that happens.

Howard Dean is the Former Chair of the Democratic National Committee and Former Governor of Vermont.