Biotech execs blast Trump's travel ban
- As a federal appeals court deliberates over President Trump’s travel ban, a wide-ranging group of biotech founders and leaders have signed a strongly worded letter opposing the executive order, which temporarily bars entry into the U.S. of citizens from seven majority-Muslim nations.
- The letter, published online Feb. 7 in Nature Biotechnology, stresses that the success of the U.S. biotech industry is inextricably linked to the ability of companies to attract the best talent, regardless of national origin.
- Several notables CEOs, including the current and former heads of Biogen, are among the 166 signatories to the letter, which contrasts starkly with the more muted response from top pharmaceutical companies and industry associations.
The biotech executives’ letter minces no words, underscoring their opposition with a telling statistic: more than half of the 69,000 biomedical researchers in the U.S. were foreign-born in 2014, according to a recent Nature study.
"If this misguided policy is not reversed, America is at risk of losing its leadership position in one of its most important sectors, one that will shape the world in the twenty-first century," the letter says.
Other notable signatories include: Ron Cohen, CEO of Acorda Therapeutics and chair of the executive committee of the trade group BIO; John Maraganore, chief of Alnylam Pharmaceuticals; Nessan Bermingham, CEO of the CRISPR-focused Intellia Therapeutics; and Nick Leschly, head of Bluebird Bio.
Despite Cohen’s signature on the Feb. 7 letter, BIO said it has not taken an official stance on Trump’s executive order.
BIO's head of communications Kenneth Lisaius told BioPharma Dive in an emailed statement that the organization continues to collect data from its 1,000 members “on the real-world impact this executive order has had, or may have, on their businesses or institutions, so that BIO can engage appropriately in fact-based advocacy.”
Following a meeting between Trump and top pharma execs last week, BIO said it was encouraged by the President's desire to cut back regulation, enforce trade rules and boost competition.
BIO's silence on the immigration order is in keeping with the general response from big pharma and most large biotech.
One exception is Allergan CEO Brent Saunders, who expressed his disagreement with any policy that would restrict the company's ability to attract talent:
$AGN is strong & bold bc of diversity. Oppose any policy that puts limitations on our ability to attract the best & diverse talent.— Brent Saunders (@brentlsaunders) January 29, 2017
Moving more cautiously in discussing immigration policy might be a tactical choice to help ease tensions over pricing.
Trump has previously been outspoken in his criticism of rising drug prices, but took a more balanced stance in the recent meeting. The administration's focus seems to have centered on the potential of pay-for-performance or value-based payments, Bloomberg reported.
The now-influential Energy and Committee chairman Greg Walden, R-OR, to The Oregonian last week appeared to signal the administration's interest in such deals.