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Biotech leaders slam Trump over immigration order

Former Teva CEO Jeremy Levin heads open letter expressing “deep concern and opposition”
US

While Donald Trump's immigration-blocking order works its way through the legal mire, the heads of 166 biotech companies and venture capitalists have left the President in no doubt of their opinion on the move.

In an open letter published in Nature Biotech yesterday, the biotech leaders express "deep concern and opposition" to the executive order that barred citizens from seven countries from entering the US, which has been suspended for the moment by a federal judge ruling.

The long list of signatories is headed by Jeremy Levin, former CEO of Teva who is now heading up Ovid Therapeutics.

Citing 2014 figures that indicated more than half of the 69,000 biomedical researchers in the US were foreign born they write that "at a stroke, the new administration has compromised years of investment" in the US biopharma industry, which they describe as a "national treasure" and the world's "greatest developer of medicines".

While the ban from the Trump administration is aimed at seven countries, biopharma employees working both within the US and for American companies in other countries interpret the underlying message as, 'America is no longer welcoming of any immigrants, whatsoever', according to the execs.

The letter goes on to say that employees "fear similar orders could be issued for other countries at a moment's notice". Several of the companies indicate they have heard from employees about their deportation fears, and how they do not feel comfortable leaving the country on business or feel cut off from their family abroad.

"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," say the execs.

"Indeed, it will harm an industry dominated by smaller companies and start-ups, the very kind of industry the administration has said it wants to support, [and] will slow the fight against the many diseases that afflict us, as well as carry negative economic consequences for the US".

The group includes both large biotechs such as Biogen and small- and mid-tier firms. Big pharma companies - some of which met with Trump last week - as well as some of the larger biopharma players such as Amgen - are absent from the letter's signatories.

The latest twists and turns in the travel ban are playing out in a US appeals court this week, with judges debating the limits of the president's power, evidence that the seven countries - Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen - are linked to terrorism, and whether the order is anti-Muslim and therefore unconstitutional.

Article by
Phil Taylor

8th February 2017

From: Research, Healthcare

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